Au Revoir to Stephen Lloyd and RIP Fort Fun: Out in the Field

Like lots of people of a certain age, I have fond memories of Fort Fun and Rocky’s the adventure playground on Eastbourne seafront which announced this week it would not be reopening.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 4:35 pm
Stephen Lloyd and Cherine

The Little Treasures pestered me relentlessly when they were small to go there and many a birthday party was held there or attended.

So, I too was saddened to see it would not be reopening again on Monday, the day when the government gave the green light to indoor soft play areas to thrown open their doors. Saddened, but not entirely surprised.

As much fun as the indoor play areas, outdoor adventure park, rides and more latterly the water park was, it was – in my opinion – terribly over-priced and too costly for a family of four who would almost certainly have had to pay out an arm and a leg for something to eat or drink in the canteen there too.

Fort Fun

The pandemic certainly didn’t help as the venue had to shut for months on end but I fear the writing has been on the wall for Fort Fun for a while and it was always going to be just a matter of time before the keys were handed back to Eastbourne council, which owns the freehold for the site.

So what now? The venue is in a prime site and there can hardly be a more enviable spot on the seafront if you want to build a block of flats or maybe a hotel.

As nice as it would be if the council could find somebody to operate the site as a children’s play park, it’s not going to happen. And the council can’t run it either.

The authority will, during the summer season at least, get some of the kiosks selling refreshments up and running again. Come the autumn I wouldn’t be surprised to see a planning application drop in for a block of flats with probably a Costa Coffee on the ground floor. Or a swanky hotel with a nice rooftop bar with panoramic views. The real losers in this are the children. Eastbourne isn’t exactly renowned for its facilities for children. Treasure Island and the golf course further along the seafront are about it now when it comes to finding something to do with the little folk in the summer months. Bring back the donkey rides in Princes Park.

Paddy Ashdown is pictured with Liberal Democrats in Eastbourne. SUS-210517-102514001

I can assure you that I do not have a crystal ball, dangly earrings, a headscarf and go by the name of Septic Peg – as opposed to Mystic Meg.

And, despite my predictions last week, the news on Monday that Stephen Lloyd would not be standing for re-election as an MP again was a complete surprise.

I have a huge amount of affection and respect for Stephen Lloyd and his other half Cherine. They have been fine ambassadors for Eastbourne and no doubt will continue to be.

There is no question that Stephen has given his heart and soul to the town in the 19 years he has either been a prospective parliamentary candidate or an MP. While he may not have had the support of an abundance of Lib Dem MPs in Parliament to get a better deal for Eastbourne, he did all he could on a local level to help thousands of residents, spearheaded the drive for apprenticeships, brought back the Eastbourne Carnival and the community together in the aftermath of the devastating Eastbourne Pier fire.

To many people he has been a friend and a mentor, a confidant and a champion.

He is an exemplary Eastbournian and I wish him and Cherine the very best in whatever the future brings.