De­vel­op­ers re­as­sure coun­cil­lors over new wa­ter­sports cen­tre

Western Morning News - - Letters - BY DANIEL CLARK

De­vel­op­ers have con­firmed that they are still com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ing a wa­ter­sports cen­tre for Exmouth seafront af­ter doubts about the project emerged.

Plan­ning per­mis­sion was granted to Gre­nadier in June and works to re­lo­cate Queen’s Drive to fa­cil­i­tate the wa­ter­sports cen­tre was due to be­gin in Septem­ber.

But some con­di­tions of the plan­ning per­mis­sion have not been signed off and work has yet to be­gin on re­align­ing the road.

East Devon Dis­trict Coun­cil’s cabi­net unan­i­mously agreed on Wed­nes­day night to com­mence re­align­ment of Queen’s Drive with­out fur­ther de­lay, even though there is a risk that the coun­cil will have in­curred the £1.2m costs of de­vel­op­ing the road and car park with­out Gre­nadier com­mit­ting to build the cen­tre.

The cabi­net heard from Richard Co­hen, deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive, that Gre­nadier will up­date the coun­cil by the end of Novem­ber. Di­rec­tor Peter Quincey said: “Gre­nadier are still com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing a fa­cil­ity that will leave a pos­i­tive le­gacy for the lo­cal com­mu­nity and will ben­e­fit the wider en­vi­ron­ment too. Gre­nadier are on sched­ule to com­mence the con­struc­tion of the de­vel­op­ment as soon as the coun­cil’s road­works are com­plete. We will, of course, keep the com­mu­nity up­dated.”

The cabi­net were asked to ap­prove the £1.2m work be­gin­ning on the road and the car park in Novem­ber, prior to the fi­nal com­mit­ment from Gre­nadier be­ing signed off, so that de­liv­ery starts be­fore the win­ter, it is com­plete by the spring of 2019 to avoid im­pact­ing the sum­mer, and costs to the coun­cil do not rise.

Cllr Jill El­son said that the de­lay in not start­ing the work in Septem­ber as planned had al­ready cost the coun­cil £63,000 and it would cost a fur­ther £66,000 if work was de­layed un­til Jan­uary.

Cllr Ian Thomas, leader of East Devon Dis­trict Coun­cil, sup­ported the rec­om­men­da­tion and added: “It is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant we keep the Exmouth re­gen­er­a­tion pro­gramme mov­ing and that the works aren’t sched­uled to go in the mid­dle of sum­mer.”

He added that the con­struc­tion cost for the road and car park is £1.278m, but the value of the site is £2.5m, so that in a worst case sce­nario in which Gre­nadier chose not to pro­ceed with the wa­ter­sports cen­tre, it would only take four years for the coun­cil to re­coup the cost via car park­ing in­come and busi­ness rates to re­main within the £3.1m bud­get for the over­all Queen’s Drive re­gen­er­a­tion.

Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter ‘Gre­nadier are still com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing this fa­cil­ity’

How­ever, some coun­cil­lors were con­cerned about the risk of fund­ing the road that ‘could lead to nowhere’ if Gre­nadier pulled out.

Cllr Rob Longhurst said: “It is not be­ing jus­ti­fied fi­nan­cially. We don’t have all the agree­ments in place and we shouldn’t be spend­ing money with­out them.”

Cllr Me­gan Arm­strong added: “The coun­cil is in­cur­ring costs with­out Gre­nadier be­ing legally com­mit­ted to this. If the coun­cil wants to spend on a road to nowhere, then I de­spair at that.”

She also was con­cerned about how late the item was added to the agenda – coun­cil­lors were in­formed about it late on Tues­day night.

She added: “My own view is that this is ma­nip­u­la­tive man­age­ment by send­ing it out pa­pers as late as pos­si­ble for a ma­jor de­ci­sion. This is sim­ply not ac­cept­able. Mem­bers should have had more time to as­sim­i­late the in­for­ma­tion and di­gest what it is say­ing.”

The re­aligned road, and the Queen’s Drive car park, is the first of three phases to re­gen­er­ate the seafront area.

Phase 2 is pro­posed to see new wa­ter­sports cen­tre.

Con­sul­ta­tion on phase 3, for a mixed use leisure area, has be­gun. Hem­ing­wayDe­sign has been ask­ing for ev­ery­one to give their views and ideas about the fu­ture of Exmouth’s Queen’s Drive site and its role for the fu­ture of the seafront and the town, and a re­port on that feed­back is ex­pected to go to the Exmouth Re­gen­er­a­tion Board in Novem­ber.

Di­rec­tor Peter Quincey

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the plans for a wa­ter­sports cen­tre on Exmouth seafront

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