Could Exmouth be the new Margate?
e Exmouth. In an attempt to boost investment and revitalise the town, the local authority has called on the expertise of fashion designer Wayne Hemingway. The founder of the Red or Dead fashion brand has, through his work reviving the faded seaside towns of Margate, Lowestoft and Bognor Regis, become an unlikely figurehead for coastal redevelopment. “Without doubt, Exmouth could be a real gem,” says Hemingway. “There’s a shift in perception and a rediscovery of the beauties of the English s seaside, seas de but often there’s a lack of awaren awareness.” In M Margate, Hemingway brought life back to Dreamland, one of t the UK’s oldest amusement park parks, which had fallen into dis disrepair. Rebuilding roller ercoasters, bringing in v vintage rides, and adding a roller disco made the once-dismal place into a hipster hotspot, and helped bring money and jobs back into the town. Hemingway says there needs to be a rethink about the types of food outlets, hotels and leisure offerings to appeal more t to younger people. “The millennial generati ation is rediscovering the British seaside,” he adds. “Look at places like Margate and Hastings – the beauties and benefits of the seaside are being re-evaluated.”
There has already been some progress in redeveloping Exmouth. In 2010, the Strand, a public square in the town centre, was given a £3million facelift. The next phase, currently going through the planning process, involves overhauling parts of the seafront.
Pop-up attractions, such as a Jurassic-themed play area for children and a big screen, are being installed this summer, and there are plans for a world-class watersports centre with an event space, dining and retail outlets.
There are more ideas for revamping the retail centre, and the greening, pedestrianisation and redevelopment of traffic-heavy areas. “We need to spend money,” says Cllr Philip Skinner, chairman of the town’s regeneration board. “We need to focus on what the culture is here, to get the balance right for all residents.”
Little things go a long way, adds Hemingway. “It’s all about belief… in Exmouth. Change doesn’t always have to be a big bang. Small things can make a difference, such as Dreamland and the Turner Gallery in Margate, or the tiny beach café in Littlehampton.
“People want space and affordability. They’re already moving to these places and there’s a creative resurgence. It’s exciting to see what’s happening in towns such as Morecambe and Lowestoft.”
According to Chris Clifford of Savills’ Exeter office, Exmouth is regarded as a “poor relation” to more upmarket Devon resorts, which impacts on property values. “It has attributes that could make it interesting to buyers, but it’s seen as a bit ‘kiss-me-quick’, so property values are 15 to 20 per cent lower than, say, the South Hams.”
However, Lorna Brooks, negotiator at local estate agent Bradleys, feels this is an outdated impression. “The change in Exmouth has been amazing. Last year was our best year ever for sales. Around 30 per cent of buyers are from out of town, and properties in key locations, such as the marina, are selling well.”
Brooks says the retiree market is still prominent, but she’s also seeing more professionals and families moving in, perhaps because they are pushed out of Exeter by its booming market.
Prices in Exmouth have risen by around 10 to 12 per cent in the past year, and start at around £150,000 for a two-bedroom apartment or £220,000 for a two-bedroom Victorian terrace. Key areas for better-off buyers include The Beacon and Foxholes Hill, where three to five-bedroom homes with sea views sell from around £700,000 to more than £1.5million.
Hemingway says the first challenge with projects such as Exmouth is to gather a dynamic and creative team, but also to engage with residents and local business owners.
“It’s not always about reinvention, but reminding people of the value of a place,” he says. “Exmouth has a great location, it’s within easy reach of Exeter, which is walking with a swagger right now. They should be channelling that. Exmouth can achieve what other coastal towns have.”
The Gut, main; Cliff Cottage, £1.5m at Knight Frank, below
Designer Wayne Hemingway, left; fourbedroom house, £600,000 with Bradleys, above