Work to Begin On Deben High School Site – But Heritage Items Saved For Archive

Deben High School – formally the Felixstowe Grammar School which was established in the 1930’s and  more recently the home of Felixstowe International Collage after the High School moved to their new building in Walton , is about to be demolished, repurposed and transformed.

East Suffolk Council recently exchanged contracts to take ownership of the site from Suffolk County Council, so any chance of this iconic building being rescued from developers has long gone.  And for those of us with fond (or otherwise) memories will soon have to witness the demolishing of this Felixstowe landmark.  But what will take its place?

ESC have now released more details of their proposal for the site which will  include up to 70 new dwellings and  a new Felixstowe Sports Hub.

The project is being undertaken in phases, with Phases One and Two covering the purchase and partial demolition of the site, while Phases Three and Four will focus on the housing and leisure development.  The intention is that building work would get underway in 2021.

The original hope for many in the community was that at least the main structure that housed the old Grammar school would be retained and converted into apartments, but the a report submitted to East Suffolk Council concluded that : “The existing courtyard buildings fronting Garrison Lane do not lend themselves to conversion as the three ‘wings’ are so interconnected and only one room deep.”

So the decision is now that most of the former school buildings will be demolished apart from the original Lower School Assembly Hall which will be retained and preserved as a focal point for the development, marking and celebrating the site’s former heritage and possible community use, and the Sports Hall as a new base for cricket and indoor bowls.  

Housing will be built on the site of the demolished buildings with the housing proposal including  ‘accommodation demonstrating a strong sustainable focus and a low carbon approach.’

 To meet local need, over 30% of properties will be affordable homes.

However the playing fields are protected from development under the Schools Framework Act 1977 and the Council are working with Felixstowe and Corinthians Cricket Club to explore the opportunity to make this their long-term home.  By utilising and upgrading the old sports hall facility at the Deben school site, the plan is for the Indoor Bowls Club currently housed at the leisure centre, and Cricket Club to share some of the facilities in a purpose-built centre

Meanwhile, the Guides, who currently occupy the site, will retain their lease for a hut on the playing field, operating independently.

There has been one other main issue to be considered however – The Felixstowe Society’s Secondary School archive built up over the years and containing hundreds of documents and other  items relating to the school’s history that are stored on the site – and also many more items within the building they have identified as wanting to retain.   

The Council has been working closely with the Felixstowe Society to ensure that key pieces which hold many special memories for the local community are saved for the archive before the demolition takes place.

The items identified are mainly from the original Grammar School Building and include the wooden front doors, which will match the special commemorative key held by the Society, corridor signage and masonry. The Council is also working with the Society to create a final photographic library before the work start.

Jean Macpherson, from the Felixstowe Society, said: “We are really pleased that East Suffolk Council has donated these items to the town’s archive, so we can preserve these special memories for many years to come.

“We have had many requests for final tours of the site before work starts, but unfortunately this is not possible due to health and safety restrictions. We hope that the photographic library we are currently working on with the Council will be a positive way for those interested to have a final ‘virtual tour’ of the site.”

For more information about the scheme, including drone footage of the site, go to www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/leisure/sport-and-leisure-development/plans-for-former-deben-high-school-site-felixstowe/

If you should have any specific queries on the proposed development, you can contact either leisure@eastsuffolk.gov.uk or  housing.development.team@eastsuffolk.gov.uk.

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