Let’s make Exmouth a real winner

PUBLISHED: 14:52 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:52 10 June 2010

I write to put the record straight on several issues from the Journal s letter columns. One correspondent questioned my worthiness to act as Champion for Exmouth and to set the building works in motion for the new bowling alley.

I write to put the record straight on several issues from the Journal's letter columns.

One correspondent questioned my worthiness to act as Champion for Exmouth and to set the building works in motion for the new bowling alley.

That building represents the first green shoots of regeneration for Exmouth, which has so much to offer but for many years has been under-achieving.

I have been asked to champion regeneration in Exmouth because I feel passionately about driving forward improvements in the town that I love.

I was born in Exmouth in 1960. My parents farmed at Stowford Farm, Colaton Raleigh, and then Maer Farm, Exmouth. I attended school in Exmouth and then went to work with my father at Maer Farm. I later moved to the family farm at Talaton.

I care about Exmouth and want to see the right things happening in the town. Thousands of people living here agree - not least the many families on low incomes looking for better employment prospects and lower family food bills.

There are some excellent people in town organisations and local government who want to see Exmouth punch its weight in East Devon, supporting one of East Devon District Council's corporate priorities - a Thriving Economy.

Exmouth Town Council and EDDC members were elected in May 2007 with a mandate to represent the town on planning and economic development.

Elected members and council officers, who have the training and experience to make things happen in the modern world, are carefully selecting projects and partners to help Exmouth become a place where people want to live, work and spend their leisure time. And where people want to shop.

Too many Exmouth folk choose NOT to shop in the town. Even those who don't travel to Exeter do their household shopping in an out-of-town supermarket.

In February 2006, EDDC stated that it had listened to the views of residents and did not intend to continue promoting any supermarket site in the town. We have not promoted any site. But we have to remain open-minded if, as has now happened, several would-be developers approach us with their ideas.

We repeatedly said that:

l It was only a matter of time before one of the larger chains looked for a site in Exmouth to compete with Tesco

l If the town IS to be regenerated, Exmouth could gain benefits from doing the right deal with the right commercial operator

After examining all the evidence, Exmouth members agreed the bus depot site still offers the best prospect for convenience shopping, revitalising the town centre through linked trips and encouraging other comparison retailers to trade in Exmouth.

They agreed to work with ASDA on a scheme that offers Exmouth an alternative supermarket, and facilities the town could not otherwise afford - including a new sports centre, swimming pool and library.

It's easy for letter-writers to compile wish-lists of facilities that Exmouth should be given. But there is no fairy godmother. We who live in the real world understand that modern facilities cost money and that private sector funding has to be part of the mix.

EDDC, its partners at Devon and SWERDA are working on business plans for visitor centres at Exmouth and along the coast at Seaton. Business plans help us understand how much things will cost so we can go out and find funding. This is why the site of the outdoor pool, where I swam as a child, is about to see a brand new building.

People will get ample opportunities to comment on the ASDA proposals and other plans for Exmouth. ASDA intends to consult with the townspeople and traders. Their comments will influence the planning application ASDA submits to EDDC.

That application will be rigorously examined by planning officers and tested against planning policies, environmental, economic and transport standards. Plans will go to the town council and residents will be consulted.

Finally, the plans will go before a committee of EDDC members, including representatives from Exmouth, who will ensure only something good for Exmouth is built.

To summarise:

l By all means continue writing to the Journal - but please give all those of us who are working hard to improve Exmouth the space to negotiate and plan

l Please be patient and wait for the many chances you will get through the planning process to comment on and influence the final scheme

l We are all champions of Exmouth, so let's work together to ensure Exmouth is the winner.

Councillor Philip Skinner.

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