Uncertain Future for Hotel with First World War History

Posted on 23 October, 2014 by Cliff Goodwin

A neglected Suffolk hotel — once the home of a pioneering Royal Navy seaplane unit — has been sold for more than £400,000.

Photograph taken in Felixstowe, Suffolk, England May 2011

Abandoned and vandalised for more than two decades the North Sea Hotel on Felixstowe’s Sea Road was recently branded “a scab on our seafront” by the town’s mayor, Graham Newman.

For more than a year its £450,000 asking price failed to attract  a buyer but now the property, last used as a nightclub in the 1990s after the hotel closed, has been acquired by Hertfordshire-based Ponders End Investments (PEI) for a figure “close” to the original valuation.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity of working with Suffolk Coastal District Council and hopefully local contractors and trades, to identify a viable scheme for redeveloping this redundant site,” explained PEI’s project director, Jon Bourn.

“I believe the correct project will underpin further future investment in the immediate area and Felixstowe as a whole,” he said, adding that his company was dedicated to “rejuvenating this section of the seafront for the benefit of all and for future generations”.

Local planners had previously considered an application to demolish the hotel, situated close to Felixstowe pier, and replace it with a three or four storey development containing 5,000 sq ft of shops, a restaurant and 15,000 sq ft of residential apartments.

The new owner has so far given no indication of what it intends to do with the North Sea Hotel, despite one local authority report claiming it has “a significant opportunity for its full refurbishment and restoration”. The same report suggested the surrounding area should be granted conservation area status because of its aviation and Great War heritage.

From August, 1913, the seafront hotel was the headquarters of the Seaplane Experimental Station which, a year later on the outbreak of the First World War, became part of Royal Naval Air Station Felixstowe.

The unit produced cutting edge designs for seaplanes and flying boats and in 1916 it carried out trials in conjunction with the Submarine Service at nearby Parkeston Quay to test the transportation and launching of seaplanes from the deck of submarine E22.

On the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918, the unit was renamed the Seaplane Experimental Station, Felixstowe, but was disbanded a year later.

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