• My first official fortnightly column in the Express & Echo - are Exmouth seafront plans right?

    10th September 2015 | News | Claire
  • The town already sports a multi-screen cinema of course, so one might question why one is also required on the seafront – and what impact it might have on the existing facility.

    It isn’t the first time that plans to develop the seafront have been a source of controversy. The much-loved Elizabeth Hall was subject to a 12,000-name petition when it was proposed for demolition to make way for a Premier Inn. East Devon District Council ploughed on with their plans and now the new hotel is open and functioning.

    The regeneration plans will also result in the loss of 37 beach huts. Certainly, what I know from talking to business people during my general election campaign, is that some of the existing seafront attractions, such as the unique Exmouth Fun Park, which is around half a century old, have been hobbled by EDDC’s refusal to deal in anything other than short-term leases, which has hugely limited the potential to invest and improve. And staff have left due to job uncertainties.

    It is a huge shame. Now a new and proactive campaign group has been launched to look closer at the plans. The group is already conducting its own survey to capture people’s views, after EDDC’s own questionnaire results prompted some scepticism.

    A public meeting will take place later in September. I believe that most people are in favour of redevelopment of an area when they see it is necessary and an improvement on what is already there. The question with the Exmouth seafront plans is whether the majority of residents view it as necessary – and an improvement. The new survey results will make interesting reading.

    Photograph:  Talking with Chris Wright of Exmouth Fun Park, during my general election campaign last summer.