The recent report in The Exeter Express and Echo (13 January 2016) on the treatment by EDDC of one its tenants, Chris Wright whose family run Exmouth Fun Park, raises serious concerns about the veracity of the Council’s version of events, as well as its competence.
Alison Hayward, EDDC’s Regeneration and Economy Manager sent a document to all councillors on 25 April 2016 which gave the clear impression that Mr Wright had refused to accept a generous offer to extend his family’s lease as part of the EDDC’s Queen’s Drive Regeneration. She says his refusal provoked an expensive legal process which caused delays and threatened to “blight the seafront”.
This version was later repeated by Cllr Phil Twiss in an email to councillors in which he added that Mr Wright had also failed to reach an agreement with Moirai Capital Investments, the council’s “preferred developer” for the regeneration of the seafront.
But, as the Express and Echo reports, it seems from EDDC’s answers to a Freedom of Information request, that Mr Wright did NOT refuse the council’s offer, but that the council withdrew it unilaterally while negotiations were still continuing.
This is serious because it suggests allegations that Mr Wright, by his obduracy, involved the council in expense and delay are inaccurate and damaging to his reputation. They could verge on the defamatory.
The reference by Cllr Twiss to Mr Wright’s failure to do a deal with Moirai raises another question. Did the Council, Ms Hayward in particular, perform due diligence on this company before signing an agreement with it?
Many observers warned that Moirai was unsuitable, a verdict the Council finally seems to have accepted in July last year when it ended its relationship, plunging the whole Queen’s Drive project into confusion.
The decision may have been made – in whole or in part – following a detailed analysis of the company’s record drawn up by members of the public and sent to Mark Williams CEO of EDDC. It was the sort of in-depth investigation which the council appears not to have bothered to conduct since the information could be obtained – with a little research – in the public domain.
In all, a not very flattering picture of a council appearing to traduce a tenant for not agreeing quickly enough to an offer which he thought he was still negotiating and appearing to criticise him for not cooperating with a “preferred developer” whose suitability was in doubt.