Leisure zone could "destroy the reason people love Exmouth", councillor warns
EXMOUTH town councillors ruled that the whole council should debate proposals to transform the seafront with a leisure and retail development after hearing concerns about the plans.
At the town’s planning committee meeting, one councillor said the planning application for a £10m, 3.6 hectare ‘leisure zone’ was “in danger of destroying the reason people love Exmouth”.
Another accused “whoever” suggested a hotel or accommodation “did not have Exmouth at heart, but money”.
The councillors were due to decide whether they supported the East Devon District Council’s Queen’s Drive Leisure Zone proposals.
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The planning application includes a water sports centre, a large indoor and outdoor play and recreation area, retail areas, restaurants and cafés, holiday accommodation, a public square and parking for 250-plus cars.
The realignment of Queen’s Drive and selected demolition of existing buildings are also outlined in the application.
But after an hour-long debate, councillors voted for a “special” full council meeting so all councillors can have their say.
The town council is writing to the local authority requesting the consultation deadline be put back.
As previously reported by the Echo, the plans have caused great concern among existing business owners within the development zone, including the owners of the Harbour View Café and the Fun Park, who face the prospect of losing their livelihoods.
Exmouth At the start of Tuesday’s meeting deputy mayor Councillor Bill Nash said: expressed his concern that he may be “gagged” from speaking.
He declared a personal interest as the secretary of a residents property management company which had already lodged an objection to the plans – but there was a discrepancy as to whether the interest could be determined as prejudicial.
However Cllr Nash, as ward member for the area, later said that he had been approached by several residents concerned at the loss of the Fun Park. “Facilities, which have been available for generations, will be lost forever if a hotel is built here,” he added. “Visitors and children who live here, love it.
“Nowhere in the consultation document was it said that the hotel would be on the Fun Park when people were asked if they supported the idea of holiday accommodation.”
Councillor Alison Greenhalge, and on behalf of Cllr Sandy MacQueen, spoke in favour of the plans because of the provision of family accommodation, jobs and indoor play.
However Councillor Maddie Chapman said she was concerned at the prospect of “another great big hotel” and said she understood the proposed accommodation was in the style of smaller holiday lets.
And Councillor Richard Turner questioned the need for more indoor activity provision because the first floor of the new bowling alley complex is going to be a huge indoor play zone.
He said: “To put accommodation there is a disaster, I don’t know who put that forward but whoever did, didn’t have Exmouth at heart, but money.”
Councillor Cherry Nicolas said she believed any accommodation should not be “high-end” but cater for the town’s thriving water sports culture.
Councillor Steve Gazzard, said: “We need to think about the future generations, but we’re in danger of destroying what people come to Exmouth for which is it’s natural, unspoilt beauty. This will destroy it.”
His comments were supported by Councillor Eileen Wragg, who raised concerns that granting outline planning permission could result in a “developers’ charter” over the area.
Both Cllr Gazzard and Cllr Wragg criticised the timing of East Devon District Council’s submission during the holiday period and just before the August bank holiday.
Councillor Tim Dumper, added: “There are a lot of people in Exmouth who are unhappy with the proposal.”
A representative from the district council tried to allay some concerns telling councillors that at the outline planning permission stage “established the principles of uses for the site, not specific locations” and to “set the scene”.
She said that what happens on the site will ultimately be down to a developer.