A correspondent writes on “regeneration” East Devon style

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”:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/may/05/urban-development-tesco-towns

and I see no reason to change my mind almost exactly five years since Tesco opened.”

2 thoughts on “A correspondent writes on “regeneration” East Devon style

  1. Devon County and its District Councils have a track record of embarrasssingly poor, internally submitted planning applications for the re-development of locally loved places. Regeneration has become a dirty word in Devon and Exmouth, unfortunately, is now the subject of a highlight reel of ‘worst practice’ regeneration that is ridiculed in the lecture theatres of red brick universities. Our town is identified as an area where the term ‘regeneration scheme’ masks poorly the Council’s agenda to sell local assets and key development plots to the highest bidder. The Strand and Orcombe Point are recent examples of developments that have been dreadfully executed and led to the destruction of locally cherished places. It is lazy to blame Councillors alone; Officers are equally accountable and clearly lack the skill, confidence and integrity to communicate to developers and Members that Exmouth must do better. Collectively, all associated with the local planning authorities that have submitted and then recommended approval for these schemes should hang their heads in shame. Exmouth’s sea front is next – the town’s Crown Jewel…. :-S

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  2. We very much feel for the people of Seaton and understand with compassion, that governments and District Councils have not in the last twenty years given the help you deserve. If only all our sea-side towns had the persona of Sidmouth with can claim all councilors handle with a kid-glove. Exmouth is next in line to suffer from the latest Master Plan idea that if you build more apartments on an open Sea Front it will with retail outlets, it will give us all success, and bring prosperity, making tourists want to pour into this Town of ours.
    Forget the lack of infrastructure, and not having a proper tourist office, a police station, or open toilets. We have no main slipway open, since 2012 which for an Estuary Town that is supposed to encourage weekend sailors, we do not have much innovative thinking, and one business man who had been serving visitors for 40 years and had used his own innovation with a old railway carriage for a cafe along side his other enterprising leisure interest, he has left for Cornwall a week ago, taking his Railway Carriage by road with him. EDDC need his land for their Master Plan, leaving a large empty space for a new Cinema, Retail units, and sea front Apartments that no young family looking for accommodation will never be able to afford. We all know it will take years before any buildings are ready, but even then they will stay empty because of high rents. We like Seaton are not sure what the future has in store for all of us, including the low paid and those who want to clime the Housing Ladder.

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