Fort Fun: Eastbourne residents suggest plans for former site

Eastbourne residents have expressed their interest in taking over the former Fort Fun site.

Eastbourne residents have expressed their interest in taking over the former Fort Fun site.

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Fort Fun in Eastbourne. Picture from Google Street Maps SUS-191208-161531001

Old Town resident Kate Daly said she is keen to turn the site into a Mr Men and Little Miss attraction.

Mrs Daly said, “As residents of Eastbourne for over 25 years and having used and watched Fort Fun during that time we are of the strong belief that the only way to keep this a children’s entertainment facility and make it successful in the long-term is by involving the community.

“Our town’s demographics have and are changing, we need more facilities for young families and children, not less.

“For this reason we have expressed our interest in running the facility as a community interest company, run for and by the people of Eastbourne.”

Eastbourne Disability Awareness Day. L-R, Chris Merredew, Loretta Lock, Stephen Lloyd and Sian Morris (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190318-110311008

Mrs Daly said the attraction would be complete with a museum, interactive model village, mini cinema, café, gift shop, sensory room, free children’s library as well as indoor and outdoor play areas.

She added, “As a unique, one-of-a-kind museum for a well-loved worldwide brand, now 50 years old, this will also attract more tourists to Eastbourne all year round which benefits everyone.

“Our son who has Asperger’s (high-functioning autism) is quite well-known for his Mr Men collection having featured on ITV’s This Morning and in local and national press.

“He has been collecting over 25 years now and it has long been his ambition to open something like this within Eastbourne.

“His collection rivals the current Guinness World Record and we intend to break this.”

Mrs Daly said her son Ben has also recently been filmed for a new Channel 4 internet series and that TV companies have expressed an interest in televising the process of creating the attraction.

The Eastbourne mother said if the Mr Men and Little Miss land goes ahead, they would plan designated hours and activities for those with special educational needs while also offering work experience.

Mrs Daly, who runs the Old Town Community Library, added, “To our family this is about a number of things, yes, making our son’s dream a reality, but also about saving the old Fort Fun area as a children’s attraction, involving the community and bringing tourists to Eastbourne.

“We have provided a sound business plan that has previously been scrutinized and approved by Theo Paphitis’ (Dragons’ Den) PA”

Mrs Daly also thanked the community for their ‘fantastic response’ on social media to the plan.

Loretta Lock, managing director of Defiant Sports, has also voiced her interest in taking over the site in Royal Parade.

Defiant Sports, which promotes inclusivity in sports, has declared their interest in the site following a viewing.

The managing director said, “We have in-depth plans to create a fully-accessible sports centre, with community space, an accessible golf course, outdoor SEND (special educational needs and disability) friendly play equipment, a base for the accessible beach project equipment and a hub for accessibility to meet the needs of both residents and tourists.

“The fact is, the venue we have been very lucky to have at Sovereign Harbour Retail Park was only ever a short-term solution.

“The other point to note is that we have already outgrown what we initially thought to be a huge space.

“The other consideration is space for outdoor sports, which we don’t currently have.”

Loretta said these reasons are why they are prioritising finding a bigger, longer-term venue to be able to meet the needs of the community while also being able to offer opportunities with other local organisations.

The managing director added, “The Fort Fun premises would be a great solution for us and the community [by] allowing an amazing, one-of-a-kind asset to be created, benefitting not only those with a barrier to participation but the wider population who would be equally welcomed.

“We not only support our players and those who take part in activities with us but support a coaching and workforce team sourced from local people.

“Unfortunately, without a new premises it is likely we will have to move Defiant Sports out of Eastbourne. This is something we do not want to do.”

The council has encouraged those interested in the site to come forward.

Councillor Margaret Bannister, cabinet member for tourism and culture services, said, “There is no doubt that Fort Fun offers huge potential and I’m certain someone with the right vision and ambition can create a new attraction that will once again prove hugely popular with the public.”

To complete an expression of interest, please visit www.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/EOI