“We are so pleased to see the completion of this unique project in Felixstowe. Since the gardens reopened, we’ve had a great response from local people and tourists visiting the area. We’ve already seen more people using them and the addition of lighting in the gardens means visitors are able to enjoy the gardens on winter evenings.” - TJ Haworth-Culf Suffolk Coastal Cabinet Member for Customers, Community and Leisure
The Brief: The Suffolk seaside town of Felixstowe has a tourist trade that is estimated to be nearly £50 million. Attracting people from the local area and further afield, one of its greatest assets, publicly-owned Felixstowe Seafront Gardens had fallen into disrepair. However, in 2011, Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC) started a £4.8 million rejuvenation project as part of a town-wide regeneration programme with match funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Parks for People programme awarded the funding, and placed strict criteria for increasing the range of audiences, volunteers involved, knowledge and skills; improving the management and maintenance; and conserving and improving heritage value.
We were chosen to deliver the project to restore the Grade II listed park to its former glory whilst retaining its Victorian charm. Our collaborative approach included engaging with local people to develop the detailed design and construction works. Our rolling programme of activities also aimed to create a public sense of ownership and protection into the project.
The Scope: The regeneration project involved a major 1km long park enhancement, which included surrounding streetscape improvement works. The work carried out included:
- Restoring two historic pavilions and water features
- Resurfacing the path network and improving access
- Encouraging ecological biodiversity and replanting the historic Edwardian planting scheme
- Replacing balustrades and installing compliant handrails
- Installing a heritage trail including community generated artwork, interpretation panels and wayfinding improving the legibility of the gardens
- Restoring historic rockwork walls
- Improving security by installing light fittings and CCTV cameras
- Rationalising street furniture and recreating historic seating
- Installing a new timber framed shelter
The project has also enhanced the setting of a redundant theatre, the Spa Pavilion, which sits adjacent to the gardens and reopened in November 2015.
The Result: The gardens are once again an attractive and much needed community area. Occupying a prime site along the cliffs and complementary to the beach and sea, the gardens are enjoyed by visitors and residents of all ages – from young families playing and picnicking on the grass areas and professionals taking a lunchtime stroll, to health conscious enthusiasts who use the network of paths and steps to improve fitness.
Also, the gardens are accessible, enabling local people with impaired mobility and elderly residents to enjoy the restored space. Tourists are also enjoying the gardens once again, with a wide range of organised holiday tours, associations and groups making frequent visits.