Work continues on major £16m development
- Credit: Archant
Work is continuing on a major £16m marine science headquarters in Lowestoft.
Construction of the marine science centre began in the summer of 2018 with new headquarters being built for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) at its site on Pakefield Cliffs in Lowestoft.
The major renovations – which were due to be completed this summer – have seen Cefas’ current building, the former Grand Hotel, demolished and replaced with a new research centre and modern office building.
Now, hopes are high that the works will be “completed by the end of the year.”
With the demolition works stopped during the continuing coronavirus crisis, a Cefas spokesman said: “Before the coronavirus pandemic, we were on track to complete the demolition, extend the car park and landscape the site during the Summer.
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“The lockdown has pushed those timelines back but we still hope to have all works completed by the end of the year.
“However, the safety of all staff is paramount, so work is only being progressed with safe social distancing methods and regularly reviewed to ensure it is in line with guidelines and best practices.”
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Cefas has been based in Lowestoft since 1902, when it began as a small fisheries laboratory.
The centre now employs some 600 staff between Lowestoft, Weymouth, English ports, Kuwait and Oman.
After securing the final piece of funding in January 2018, back then Cefas said the new research centre could save it up to £2m a year in running costs and would safeguard 440 jobs at the Pakefield Road site as well as enabling it to employ 12 to 15 apprentices a year.
A prominent Lowestoft landmark, Cefas said the old Victorian hotel had become too expensive to run and was not operationally fit for purpose.
The Cefas spokesman said: “Prior to the lockdown, the demolition of the E Block (south side of the site) had been completed and work on demolishing the Grand Hotel structure had just begun.
“Demolition was then paused while contractors reviewed their plans to ensure staff could work safely.
“Demolition work is now continuing again, led by Morgan Sindall and subcontractors who have assessed – and continue to assess – their plans to ensure the safety of their staff and those walking near the building, including by social distancing.”
The former Grand Hotel was a historic Victorian hotel in Lowestoft that was steeped in memories.
Built in 1893 by John Whaley, the Grand Hotel had rooms for 140 guests with steps down to the promenade and beach.
Research shows that in 1931 a large hall – ‘Palais de Danse’ – was added to the hotel and this hosted dances, trade exhibitions, boxing and wrestling.
During the Second World War the hotel served partly as a Battery Observation Post, and it was sold after the war to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF – now Cefas).
The dance venue continued, and became ‘Watling’s Lowestoft Palais’ – proving very popular as a music and dance venue, with an indoor and outdoor roller-skating rink.
But as interest waned it was sold to CEFAS.
Of the continuing works, a Cefas spokesman said: “We remain very appreciative to our local community for their continued support and forbearance.
“Those who have been near the site may have seen the demolished materials piled up.
“These are sorted into different piles so that the vast majority can be recycled.
“Morgan Sindall and Anglian Demolition have planned work in such a way that a minimum 90 per cent of material will be recycled – compared to an industry average of 70pc.
“This includes rubble which will be crushed for hard-core, scrap metal, wood and plaster board.”