'Nothing on the table' to replace Exmouth seafront businesses
PUBLISHED: 11:08 18 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:14 18 August 2017
Seafront traders, who will be forced to close by district bosses in a matter of weeks, have reacted to the revelation that the search for something to replace their businesses has not even begun.
Exmouth Fun Park and the Harbour View Café form part of the phase three site for East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) proposed three-phase Queen’s Drive redevelopment.
However, EDDC does not currently have a developer for those parts of the site, having previously announced plans to remarket. Now, a Freedom of Information request by campaigner Louise MacAllister has revealed the remarketing process itself has not yet begun.
EDDC has conceded that sites will be boarded up ‘for a time’.
The authority says its current priority is the watersports centre which forms phase two of its plan, but temporary attractions could be provided.
Chris Wright, owner of Exmouth Fun Park, told the Journal this week: “I personally think it’s a real shame, because not only will we be closing before the end of the school holidays, but one of our other businesses [neighbouring Jungle Fun] has been boarded up for coming up to 12 months now - and nothing’s happened on that either.
“I’m very disappointed to see the way this has all ended up. There’s nothing on the table to replace these attractions, which are being taken away at the end of this month.
“It was not for want of trying for us to want to improve and invest in these facilities. Unfortunately, the council saw fit not to pursue that.
“It’s been a very difficult summer for us - to know it’s on death row. The business has been successful and entertained millions of visitors to Exmouth since the 1950s.”
Dawn Hirst, whose Harbour View Café will close at the end of September, said: “We have offered to stay until they are ready to proceed and also offered to invest ourselves.
“I don’t really see the sense in closing two businesses that could carry on until they are ready.
“We’ll be closing with no revenue coming in and nothing to replace us and no sign of anything to replace us.”
Dr MacAllister said: “The risk EDDC is taking with Exmouth’s seafront is incredibly high - the chance of long-term dereliction now looms large unless the current businesses are urgently given an extension.”
Nick Hookway, chairman of campaign group Save Exmouth Seafront, said: “What exactly is the council’s motive in planning a development, obtaining planning and reserved matters planning approval without having sought any developer showing the slightest interest in this development?”
An EDDC spokesperson said: “The council’s focus at the moment has been on securing its development agreement with the watersports centre investor, Grenadier Estates, and enabling them to bring their plans to public consultation in the autumn.
“Before we go back to the market for phase three, the former fun park and café sites, the council has committed to developing a new leisure and mixed-use vision for these sites.
“We want to make sure that the public and businesses have a say in what happens on the remaining sites before they are marketed.
“As with Mamhead Slipway and the Premier Inn development, there is a period of closure and construction works during which sites will be boarded up for a time.
“Alongside the permanent developments, the council is planning to introduce some new, temporary attractions similar to the big wheel and recent open-air cinema events.
“We want to make sure that there will be fresh reasons for people to visit and enjoy Exmouth seafront while the major changes are under way.”