Plan for £150,000 play area on Exmouth seafront is slammed by owner of site’s former fun park

PUBLISHED: 12:46 17 January 2018 | UPDATED: 09:42 18 January 2018

A selection of graphics showing some of the activities at the new play park at Queen's Drive.

A selection of graphics showing some of the activities at the new play park at Queen's Drive.

Archant

Chris Wright, whose family used to run Exmouth Fun Park before eviction in September last year, has critised EDDC over a planned £150,000 temporary play park on the site in Queen’s Drive.

A new Jurassic-themed play park costing £150,000 in taxpayer cash looks set to be built on the former Exmouth Fun Park – four months after a family business there was forced to close.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has announced it will shell out the money to provide the recreational area on the seafront regeneration site in Queen’s Drive.

An outline planning application to build temporary attractions on the site is set to go before EDDC’s development management committee in March, having twice drawn opposition from Exmouth Town Council.

The proposal is to temporarily divide the site into three zones – one for outdoor eating and a seating area, one for a big screen to show live sport and music and the other for a children’s play area.

If the planning application is given the go ahead, Surrey-based company Eibe, which has been awarded the contract by EDDC, will construct a mix of swings, slides, roundabouts and see-saws with a 7.5-metre high ‘old wise tree’ as the area’s centrepiece, in the third zone.

If permission is granted, it is hoped work on the play park can be completed by late spring.

EDDC has previously stated that the temporary attractions would help to keep the site from becoming ‘derelict and unusable’.

Chris Wright, whose family ran Exmouth Fun Park until its closure last September, told the Journal the move ‘smacks of desperation’.

He said: “From what I’ve seen it doesn’t seem to be very innovative.

“I guess it’s going to be swings and slides, which is of course what we have knocked down.

“That was exactly what was there in the first place and they are just putting back the same thing.

“I understand it’s going to be free play, but it’s coming out of taxpayers’ money.”

Campaign group Save Exmouth Seafront (SES) has accused EDDC of ‘attempting to browbeat and bamboozle town councillors and residents’ with the play park plan.

Nick Hookway, chairman of SES, pointed out that the deadline for public comment on the still-undecided planning application has already passed.

He added: “EDDC has no proposals for a permanent development on this site and has yet to announce when the much-promised full and open public consultation on Queen’s Drive is to take place.

“So the question which now arises is how temporary will these attractions prove to be? One year? Two years? Three years?

“Save Exmouth Seafront believes that it’s about time that EDDC starts acting in a democratic, reasoned, planned and professional way with our seafront.

“Is there not a case that this planning application be thrown out and be replaced by a new application that is complete and accurate with clearly laid-out plans for the fun park site on Queen’s Drive? Save Exmouth Seafront thinks that there is.”

Town and district councillor Bill Nash said: “In my view, you do things in order – put the tender out, see what the company is going to provide and then you can suggest these things in a planning application.

“That should have been done first, and then you can put in the application, so that would have given more substance to the application.”

Councillor Phillip Skinner, EDDC’s portfolio holder for the economy and chairman of the Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board, said: “The free space signals exciting changes under way for Exmouth seafront and we are looking forward to a positive planning decision on our application that will let full installation begin.

“We want the Queen’s Drive site to be active and attractive for this holiday season and beyond. When we move toward permanent development and attractions on the site, then equipment can be relocated and reused on other East Devon play sites, so that other children can continue to enjoy this brilliant new equipment into the future.”

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