Sadness as Exmouth Fun Park closes

PUBLISHED: 10:55 01 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:27 01 September 2017

Floral tributes left on the final day of operation at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.

Floral tributes left on the final day of operation at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.

Archant

Well-wishers have turned out to say goodbye to a family-run attraction on Exmouth seafront, which has entertained visitors and local residents alike for generations.

A memory wall was produced on the final day of opening at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.A memory wall was produced on the final day of opening at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.

The lease for Exmouth Fun Park to operate on its site on Queen’s Drive, owned by East Devon District Council (EDDC), came to an end on August 31.

The council is taking back the site to pursue redevelopment plans, but no developer is yet in place to deliver this.

Campaign group Save Exmouth Seafront (SES) organised a memory wall on the final day for people to leave their recollections of the attraction, and floral tributes, with a presentation to Chris Wright, whose family have run the fun park for more than 40 years.

SES chairman Nick Hookway said: “The memory wall was extremely popular and was greatly appreciated by the Wright family, who I think were touched by the comments that were made by young and old.

A presentation to the Wright family on the final day of opening at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.A presentation to the Wright family on the final day of opening at Exmouth Fun Park. Picture by John Currier.

“There was a great deal of anger, from everybody really who walked by, about the closure of the fun park. People don’t understand the district council’s motives for doing so.

“We were in support of the Wright family’s tenacity in dealing with a very difficult situation.

“Members of SES were very sad to see the closure of a very popular and viable business.”

An extraordinary meeting of EDDC on September 13 will consider a possible lease extension for the fun park, and also the neighbouring Harbour View Café, which is due to close at the end of September, until a developer and plans are in place for the sites.

This follows a motion put to the Conservative-led council by Independent East Devon Alliance councillors.

An auction of the contents of the fun park has been postponed until September 14.

Mr Hookway added: “Members of SES look forward to stating our case at the extraordinary meeting, as to why this very popular facility should remain open.”

An EDDC spokesperson said the council was ‘moving forward’ with its regeneration plans for the area, citing a recently signed agreement for a new watersports centre with Grenadier Estates – though this does not involve the fun park site, which is part of a later phase of the council’s plans.

The spokesperson added: “Looking to 2018, the council is planning to put temporary uses on the site to provide new entertainment, high quality food outlets, community space and play space.

“The Exmouth Fun Park tenancy ended on August 31. It was a temporary tenancy, granted in 2016 as part of a court approved order.

“The court found in the council’s favour in 2016 to conclude the tenancies (including the mini-golf site) but the council allowed the tenant to stay on the site for an agreed period of time on a rent-free basis.

“That agreed period has now expired and the site returns to the council, as landlord.

“The tenant has been offered a four-week license period to clear his goods from the site, starting from the closing date.

“The tenant has long been aware of the council’s plans in respect of Queen’s Drive and was paid the statutory compensation in respect of the termination of the tenancy in 2016.

“The tenant has had the opportunity to relocate his business. The council wishes the tenant every success in his business opportunities elsewhere.”

In a statement earlier this week on behalf of his family, Chris Wright said he wanted to offer ‘heartfelt and sincere thanks’ to those who had offered support.

He said: “At such a difficult time for us a family, who have lived and loved the seafront and town this has been truly heartwarming.

“We were never anti-development and invested considerable funds putting proposals forward.

“Our desire to be part of the seafront’s future was unstinting, alas it would now appear unsuccessful.

“So to the many, many customers over the last 40-plus years, the local residents and visitors who have supported our family businesses, not forgetting the staff over the years all from Exmouth, we thank you.”

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