This is a comment to the previous post which we have published as a post, from Sandra Semple, Mayor of Seaton during the major part of its regeneration process:
“Can we knock several of Councillor Twiss’s naive misconceptions about Seaton “regeneration” on the head. I know, I was there as Mayor at the time.
First, we got nothing but a massive Tesco and a housing estate with no affordable housing. No hotel, no leisure facilities, no community facilities. The town’s yourh club, day nursery, swimming pool and gym were demolished along with a thriving 500 bed holiday camp. The nursery was re-located (with a Devon County Council grant) on land meant to be for a re-located youth centre – which could not be built anyway as it was during the recession, the land was not adequate after the nursery was completed, grants were hard to come by and we were given only a paltry £80,000 towards a new facility (Colyton’s Reece Strawbridge Centre built at that time cost £500,000).
Ah, people will say, you got a wonderful new Visitor Centre (due to open next year, 6 years after the Tesco). Wrong: EDDC was paid £2 million by Tesco for a right of way across land OUTSIDE the regeneration area (where the youth club stood) as otherwise they would have been classed as an out-of-town store. This would have given the edge to Sainsburys which was what the town wanted, smaller, closer and would have included a completed Visitor Centre on the first floor (fully accessible to disabled people and overlooking the Wetlands) on the day the store opened.
The current Visitor Centre could not have been built without a hefty injection of lottery funding and an agreement that it would be run by Devon Wildlife Trust. The centre had been meant to include a terminus for the Minehead-Seaton national cycle route (lockers, showers etc) but these were cut out due to the extra cost involved. As to whether it will (continually, not just in its first year) attract 50,000 visitors remains to be seen, especially now Lyme Regis is extending its town museum and there is talk of a Jurrasic Eden-Centre type project on Portland.
We lost half our main car park to the Visitor Centre (an overflow carpark has been built on former public open space) and without the 500 beds at the holiday camp (85% occupied 50 weeks a year) we lost the main accommodation base for the annual Grizzly Run. Our biggest hotel is 10 beds and tourists visiting the Wetlands are unlikely to find accommodation in Seaton easily. But never mind, they can go to Premier Inns in Honiton and Exmouth.
Each and every desire of the local population – most of which could have been achieved – was ignored or ignominiously dismissed. If it did not come from Tesco or a small coterie of officers and councillors – forget it. Though mostly from Tesco. Even our “Regeneration Board” was a fantasy (a Twiss word) as it was just a talking shop which rubber stamped decisions already made. I was asked to leave it because I criticised Tesco (privately) and I did leave because it was achieving precisely nothing.
Regeneration? In your dreams. As I said in a national newspaper article at the time: “My town was sold to Tesco”:
and I see no reason to change my mind almost exactly five years since Tesco opened.”