We’ve been asked for our views of the future for Felixstowe.
When you live in a town it’s not easy to be objective. Generally most of us will say we love this town, especially those who were not born in Suffolk.
Like everywhere we have a fair majority of incomers. Not sure it’s local government planning to encourage well-heeled newcomers. There is a lack of so-called social housing, making it very difficult for our young folk to stay in the town. The old-style Council housing helped to ensure that link that allowed people to move as their lives changed. Market forces don’t allow for such flexibility.
We have the spectre of Trinity College in our vision. Trinity are the third-largest property owners in the country, having been given all the lands once owned by the Church by King Henry VIII. Every decade they have arrived in Felixstowe and built a housing estate, making a lot of money. None of that income is returned to the town. I have suggested, in the past, that the college should provide bursaries for Felixstowe children and 20 acres of land be set aside to create a Centre of Building Excellence. Both ideas have been rejected. Thats a pity because Trinity should form closer links. One French example is now printing houses, much cheaper than conventional methods, and this region has a real need to examine a range of options, and not, as at present, rely upon national housebuilders. They do little to enhance an area, and estates usually lack facilities, encouraging more traffic and failing to build communities.
The Council should encourage self-build. That will encourage local initiative and create character.
The Council gave Bloor Homes 17.5 acres of coastal land. As far as I am aware no money changed hands. The Council has consistently stuck to its line that this was a commercial contract, effectively meaning that the true owners of the land should never know.
It could be argued that too many of the Felixstowe South dwellings are now used as second homes. We’ll never know. The Waverley Hotel development produced a number of apartments. I understand that the whole development was bought by one foreign concern. A good indication of the state of our country today.
The Bartlet complex was left to the community by Dr Bartlet in 1918, built in 1928 to provide respite care for elderly people. That’s now gone without any substitute in place. We have ‘bed blockers’ in our hospitals instead. Many of the patients in our Felixstowe Hospital are from elsewhere. The Bartlet meanwhile has been tastefully developed.
There’s a decline in all services. Transport does not improve. With our town, and the Kirton and the Trimleys, together with the new developments, all using the same exit routes we are in danger of being strangled by traffic. It’s hard to leave town in the rush hour. With the increasing encroachment by the Port upon our railway it can only get worse.
That difficulty can be turned to our advantage. Once here it’s not easy to leave, so stay. Use our local facilities. Still too many shops are closing, even the charity shops are finding it more difficult. We need a local bus service that never leaves the peninsular. Too much emphasis is allowed for the needs of commercial operators. It’s time our local needs were acknowledged.
The shared space doesn’t work. Imagine being a three-year old breathing in so many noxious gases, to what advantage? There was an inspired suggestion made by the previous owner of the Wharf who saidt the ‘shared space’ area be turned into a covered esplanade, allowing open air restaurants and other facilities. She wanted to emphasise our Edwardian roots.
One fatal mistake made by the Council was to reject the escalator to bring people from beach to the town.It would help to keep the town alive, and could have generated income.
Another lost opportunity was the sale of the Spa Pavilion for £1. It is now clear it was a wasted opportunity, that could have encouraged much better use of that building. There is now no publicly owned public space where we can all assemble, although a large hall at the Leisure Centre could be upgraded, perhaps turned into a small theatre.
Plans now seem to include a new sports centre. A good idea, although we do have interests beyond football. The sailing club at the Ferry needs proper training facilities.
There’s a plethora of yellow lines most of which are, quite rightly, ignored. They are not necessary, and should be removed. In any event our police service no longer really exists on the streets.
There is a feeling that the Councils no longer represent the people. They have instead become intent on saving money or making money to cover their own expenses. We need a more active opposition, or a public forum where available money to be spent should be publicly broadcast, with public meetings where voters decide on the allocation of resources.
We had a Blue Flag Beach taken from us to save money. A form of madness, that was no better than the coastal engineering works designed to save our beaches, which are already showing that they will not work.
The pier development and Mannings Amusements are legacies left by a bygone age. They do little to attract people to the town. The Sunday Market is disappearing, probably for the best. Very few stallholders came from our town. A choice has been made: the southern end of the beach attracts traditional ‘kiss me quick’ hats whilst on the other side of the pier with the Alex, the Fludyers, the Golf Club and Felixstowe Ferry bringing a different clientele. How long that can persist is questionable.
There’s a naive belief that the Port is the lifeblood of the town. The Chinese owners are not interested in our town, but in exploiting the commercial opportunities offered by our location. In recent weeks we have seen the first moves towards automation with new cranes and container handlers. Look at Rotterdam to see the future for Felixstowe. As an employment centre it will now diminish. We need to create a business centre that does not rely upon the Port.
As retail shops decline online sales increase, which means a swarm of delivery vans, who cause disruption. Why do we allow such chaos. No home delivery vans should be allowed in Felixstowe. All should be sent to a warehouse, built to handle part-load shipments. From there we need a fleet of pollution free vehicles (are you listening Royal Mail?) that deliver to every house, every day. Reduce pollution, increase local employment, set a national standard, revitalise Royal Mail.
That’s enough. Ask again if you think any of this helps.