New �1.5m centre for seafront

A SEAFRONT interpretation and education centre - costing �1.5 million - could be up and running within two years.

A SEAFRONT interpretation and education centre - costing �1.5 million - could be up and running within two years.

The most likely location would be near the Mamhead Slipway, the former site of the Stuart Lines Cruises' booking office - and would work in concert with a visitors' centre, still mooted for the Imperial Recreation Ground, writes David Beasley.

But the project, backed by Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Exmouth Town Council, The Exmouth Visitors' Centre Trust, and Exmouth and Seaton Interpretation Centre Board, is dependent on funding - an application was lodged last week.

Devon County Council has already committed �500,000 from the sale of Exeter Airport - and the conglomerate is optimistic the remaining �1 million will be pledged through the Government's Sea Change programme.

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The programme has set aside �15 million each year, from 2008 to 2011, to fund the regeneration of Britain's seaside towns.

David Conway, chairman of the Exmouth Visitors' Centre Trust, said: "We still hold a strong aspiration for a visitors' centre, but this would be a taster, more like an outreach centre.

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"It would help to attract people to that end of the seafront, work with Stuart Line Cruises and would act as a gateway to the River Exe, a gateway to the marina and a gateway to the Jurassic Coast."

The new centre would have hi-tech educational equipment and possibly links to web cams situated at key points around the coastline and the Exe Estuary.

He added: "The bid is incumbent on us moving quickly. We would ideally like something on the ground within two years."

Mayor Darryl Nicholas said: "It has been a long-held aspiration to have a top class Jurassic Coast centre in Exmouth, to attract visitors to the town, and could be an excellent first stage.

"In the current economic climate, it is ever more difficult to try to put these projects together - so exploring different options and being creative is absolutely the approach that we need to take.

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