Unimpressed by Strand plans

PUBLISHED: 13:26 18 December 2008 | UPDATED: 10:12 10 June 2010

The three options for a redesigned Strand Gardens currently on display at Exmouth Town Hall purport to reflect the views emerging from last summer s research initiative.

The three options for a redesigned Strand Gardens currently on display at Exmouth Town Hall purport to reflect the views emerging from last summer's research initiative.

If so, they reveal a scarcely credible degree of unanimity.

How do these options reflect the views of those sceptical about large-scale pedestrianisation, hostile to "new town" gimmickry such as fountains and "art features", vehemently opposed to the removal of mature trees and loyal to the historic Strand Gardens as a uniquely pleasant expanse of greenery at Exmouth's heart?

If the gardens at present lack charm, the blame lies not with their long-standing pedigree but with ill-considered recent changes inflicted in the name of improvement. The disproportioned shelter and clumsy raised flowerbeds are similarly recent and inept. The strings of coloured lights are plain tawdry.

Consultation is an excellent thing but meaningless if the three options presented to the public turn out - as here - to be minor modifications on the same theme, differing principally in the pattern of grassed area left over once the new-town-style piazzification of the gardens has been effected.

I call on the Urban Design Team of Devon County Council to return to the drawing board and do the job properly. A fourth option at the very least is called for. This should embody a scheme for the Strand that will appeal to those unimpressed by plaza-style fountains and water features and hostile to dubious "art" installations. Its focus should be on the retention and enhancement of all that is best about the gardens, not their destruction.

Sensible populations recognise an asset to their environment when they are lucky enough to have one. The Strand Gardens are such an asset, and so unusual a one as to warrant the description unique. How many towns have at their centre so pleasant and green an expanse of lawns and mature trees of such long standing?

Too few of Exmouth's charms have survived the ill-considered, short-term, vulgar and misplaced zeal of planners. Short of vehement, sustained and energetic protest it would seem that The Strand is to be next on the list.

John Ellerton,

55 Raleigh Road, Exmouth

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