Some of Exmouth’s traders have been accused of “bullying” by East Devon District Council’s leader over the leasing of pitches.

Councillor Paul Arnott (Independent East Devon Alliance, Coly Valley) did however stress that he was not referring to all of the licensees that have been using the spaces in the last few years.

East Devon has allocated a budget of £160,000 to the ‘placemaking in Exmouth town and seafront group’ to improve the area.

The group met virtually on Tuesday morning (13 December) and Gerry Mills, project manager for place and prosperity in Exmouth, confirmed that the council had received offers from traders to occupy pitches on Queen’s Drive Space in Exmouth for the next two seasons.

However, no takers have come forward to rent out the events space, which Mr Mills labelled “very disappointing.”

He also revealed that traders wishing to rent out parts of Queen’s Drive Space, which features an LED-managed fitness area and an events space, were offered a 15 per cent discount.

Work on car park signage is making solid progress but the recent bad weather has delayed the completion of a mural on the back of the pavilion.

Service lead Tim Child suggested that the council needs a long-term plan for the use of the strand, from which traders from last season have now all moved.

An issue was raised as to the behaviour of a tenant who had remained on the strand beyond the end of their lease in September. Mr Child said that the trader has now left but flowerpots and fencing remain onsite.

This was labelled as “entirely unsatisfactory conduct” by Cllr Arnott, who added that the council had always shown plenty of tolerance towards licensees.

It was claimed by the leader of the council that some of the traders on The Strand over recent years have engaged in “bullying conduct” towards council officers, and condemned those that have been making money on the council and the public.

Cllr Arnott advised that traders who wish to stay beyond their lease agreement need only have applied and “paid for something different.”

Mr Child vowed to get the land back “promptly” at the end of September next year to allow the grass to recover, adding next year’s leasing agreement, which will be finalised with traders early in January, allows traders plenty of time to plan.

This, reasoned Mr Child, will allow the council to avoid the issues they have faced in recent years.

Levelling up in East Devon

Meanwhile, Cllr Steve Gazzard (Liberal Democrats, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) asked the council to get in touch with East Devon MP Simon Jupp to lobby the government for an update on their levelling up plan.

Planned devolution into local councils and authorities is intended to enable growth in less prosperous regions of the United Kingdom, without adversely affecting more prosperous parts such as the South East.

The changes in Tory leadership have delayed any announcement regarding the government’s immediate levelling up plans, but Cllr Gazzard wants Mr Jupp to push Westminster for an update so that plans to develop Exmouth and the seafront can move forward.

Mr Child added that he will also send the email to Tiverton and Honiton MP Richard Foord.