Developers reassure councillors over new watersports centre
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