“… It follows a council document from 2015 about the Queen’s Drive development that says: “The people of Exmouth are being offered a gift of a new Watersports Centre that will operate as a community interest company (not a private facility) whereby a philanthropist is investing up to £4m of his own money in this national venue.”
But a council spokesman said that the debate is about what constituents a gift and that once the original investment without interest is recovered all income generated will be reinvested in Exmouth.
Save Exmouth Seafront spokesman Nick Hookway said: “We have a number of concerns about the arrangements that East Devon District Council has made with Grenadier.
“Grenadier is not gifting the Water Sports centre site to the people of Exmouth. Information supplied by both the developer and the Council shows that the cost of the project will initially be paid for by Grenadier. The whole cost of this development will then be paid back to Grenadier over a number of years with no interest except for the cost of inflation. Inflation is running at 3.9% as measured by the Retail Price Index. Wouldn’t it be nice if residents could get 3.9% on their savings accounts?
“In most people’s minds Grenadier is a making a loan not a gift. Why are Councillors unable to see this?”
But a council spokesman said: “Grenadier is investing £3m to £4m upfront in providing a water sports centre and we have seen the attractive plans that will enhance Exmouth’s seafront and attraction to visitors and residents.
“The developer is involved on a not for profit basis with a business model that involves recovery of their original investment (without interest). The water sports centre and associated facilities will then be operated by a non-profit making Community Interest Company. Income generated from that point on will be used to reinvest in Exmouth by the Community Interest Company.
“There seems to be some debate about what constitutes a ‘gift’. To be clear, the cost of building the asset will be paid upfront by Grenadier and this will be paid back to Grenadier by the CIC without interest using income derived from the operation of the facility.
“The specifics and priorities of that re-investment will be something that the Community Interest Company will decide and it will have local representation on the board. This varies considerably from the standard investment model that commercial developers would usually follow and, in fact, Grenadier has chosen not to make a profit on this project when they could have directed their funds elsewhere into a profit making venture as would normally be the case for a private developer.”
Questions were also raised by SES as to who exactly is behind the realignment of Queen’s Drive that will see the road move from its current position on the seafront to behind the proposed new watersports centre.
Mr Hookway said: “Why is the road being moved and who suggested this realignment? Grenadier has stated the realignment of the road was not something that they asked for. East Devon District Council will say that it was included in the Exmouth Masterplan which was adopted in 2011.
“However there was no explanation in the Masterplan for the proposed realignment, indeed recent changes to the design of the road are different from those proposed in the Masterplan. Save Exmouth Seafront wants to know why the road is being moved and who proposed these changes.”
But in response, the council spokesman said: “The road and car park move was recommended in the original masterplan and made a lot of sense in creating a new, accessible and safer space connected directly to the beach.
“There is no confusion here since the council marketed the site on that basis and Grenadier bid on the clear understanding that the road and car park were being moved. This was a council decision following the recommendation of the masterplan.”
Save Exmouth Seafront in response to the plans say that they would like the main buildings to be moved back eight metres from the current proposed location, is it necessary for it to be two storeys, and will there be a clearly displayed safety plan for kite surfers, but did say the consultation process funded by Grenadier was a most welcome change from the usual process of planning consultations.
A spokesman for Grenadier added: “We are currently reviewing all feedback received during the community consultation process. All comments are receiving our full attention and we will provide an update once we have completed our review. In the meantime we encourage the community to check back regularly at http://watersportscentreexmouth.co.uk/ for any updates.”