Big blow for new centre

PUBLISHED: 15:11 20 November 2009 | UPDATED: 12:21 10 June 2010

A SCHEME to build a seafront interpretation and education centre at Mamhead Slipway has suffered a setback, after a £1m government funding bid was rejected.

A SCHEME to build a seafront interpretation and education centre at Mamhead Slipway has suffered a setback, after a £1m government funding bid was rejected.

But plans for a more 'modest' centre is still on the cards with hopes for cash from the county council.

It's the second time in a year the Exmouth and Seaton Interpretation Centre Board has had hoped-for funding fall through - in January the South West Regional Development Agency withdrew pledged cash.

The £1.5m seafront project, partnership of local councils, The Exmouth Visitors Centre Trust and Exmouth and Seaton Interpretation Centre Board, will be a 'Gateway' for a larger project mooted for the Imperial Recreation Ground.

Originally, the plans called for the centre to have a café, shop, and two high-tech 'audio visual' displays telling the story of the extinction of the dinosaurs and the evolution of sea life over millions of years.

But the bid to the Sea Change programme, to fund the regeneration of Britain's seaside towns, was unsuccessful and any future project would be more modest.

Tracey Guiry, East Devon visitor centres project development manager, said: "We are obviously disappointed...

"It's clear that times are getting tougher and we cannot rely on government funding for projects such as these.

"The district and county councils will play an even more important part in making these centres happen and local support is going to be crucial."

She said that they did have a 'Plan B', and a spokesman for the district council added: "At Exmouth, a slightly more modest building can still go ahead, with a very strong local flavour and similar county council funding.

"There are already plans for a building at Mamhead Slipway and it is hoped that the visitor experience here would be associated with boat trips run in partnership with Stuart Line Cruises."

A spokesman for the Sea Change programme said: "Competition was fierce and the application wasn't as strong as some of the others."

She said the £45 million pot was a 'one off.'

Exmouth mayor Darryl Nicholas said: "This is clearly a disappointing decision...

"However, we have worked hard in Exmouth to build relationships with the private sector, understanding the importance of EDDC, Exmouth Town Council, DCC, the business community and community groups working together.

"For this reason, there is still plenty of life in the Exmouth Visitor Centre project and indeed many other projects that are being developed in the town.

"We are facing this economic situation head-on and doing the hard work now to ensure a bright future for the town.

"Despite this body blow from the Sea Change programme - the visitor centre project can, and will be, a success story for Exmouth.

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