Bid to save Exmouth Fun Park rejected
PUBLISHED: 12:31 14 September 2017
A last-ditch effort to save Exmouth Fun Park has failed, after a motion to keep it open was rejected by East Devon District Council (EDDC).
At an extraordinary meeting, councillors voted by 26 to 21 against offering the fun park a new lease.
The council says it wants the site of the fun park, which was forced to close on August 31, to pursue phase three of its Queen’s Drive redevelopment plans – however a developer for these is not yet in place.
The meeting had been scheduled to also discuss the nearby Harbour View Café, but after EDDC decided last week to give the café – also part of the phase three site - a temporary extension, the motion at the meeting was amended to say the fun park should be offered the same terms.
EDDC has said it needs to prepare the site for temporary attractions proposed for 2018.
Councillor Megan Armstrong, proposing the motion, said: “I and many others were delighted when cabinet agreed to offer Harbour View a further one year lease, but were extremely disappointed that such an offer wasn’t extended to the fun park.
“There is no reason why the fun park should be treated differently, and [an extension] would show the council acting fairly to both tenants.
“Is this council willing to see the dereliction of the seafront and the loss of 18 local jobs?
“Are we content to refuse a regular income from a well used facility?
“Why are we considering temporary attractions when a viable one is already in place?”
Cllr Armstrong also disputed comments that the fun park only opened for ‘half the year’, and said a consultation after it had closed would be too late.
Speaking against, referencing a previous court case between the council and fun park owner Chris Wright, Councillor Pauline Stott said: “What if you were a landowner, and there came a time when you wanted it back, so you offered the two tenants very good compensation, which was taken.
“Then one tenant decided to take you to court, and to delay you for two-and-a-half years.
“Whereas the other tenant accepted their compensation.
“They opened 364 days of the year, unlike the other tenant who only opens during fine weather.
“They never tried to delay anything by going to court. If it was your land, which tenant would you trust to have an extended lease?”
Speaking from the public gallery, Save Exmouth Seafront chairman Nick Hookway said: “When I saw reports that the cafe had been given permission to open for another year, but the fun park had not, my first reaction was to question why the fun park has to remain closed.
“What exactly is the council’s motive for closing the fun park? What has been going on in secret behind closed doors?
“The closure of the fun park in the middle of the holiday season is a disgrace.
“The decision to close has been deplored by residents and visitors in the strongest possible terms.”
Councillor Brian Bailey said: “It’s quite simple. The café is the other side of the road. It’s a separate entity.”
Councillor Steve Gazzard said: “To close the fun park without having a plan for what to do with the space, to me, is crazy.”
Councillor Darryl Nicholas said: “The reason there isn’t a developer in place for phase three is because we took the message back as Exmouth councillors that we want a consultation on this. I say let’s get on with it. The last thing we want is dereliction.”