Decision-making delays leave seafront regeneration plans in limbo

“At Thursday’s scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Cathy Gardner, chairman of the committee, confirmed the marketing exercise remains on hold until full council and cabinet have met.

Any decision over the future of the Queen’s Drive site is, under the constitution of the council, one for the cabinet to make.

They will have the option of accepting the recommendation of scrutiny and full council, or if they chose, are entitled to stick with their original decision.”

That there is no Cabinet is down to an indefensible decision made by EDDC ‘s Conservative Chairman, Stuart Hughes.

Owl reminds readers that Chairman Stuart Hughes cancelled the May Annual Meeting after Ben Ingham’s coalition with the Conservatives lost its majority. This is the meeting at which a new administration could have taken over in a smooth transition. Clearly a political decision.

The powerless Leader, Ben Ingham, subsequently “resigned” the Cabinet on 18th May. This week, in a bizarre choreography, a series of extraordinary meetings will be held, some to decide whether to have another meeting to decide, on electing a new administration.

The future of Exmouth seafront will remain in limbo for several more months following delays over decision-making as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is now more than eight years since East Devon District Council (EDDC) released its plans for an ambitious redevelopment scheme for the seafront.

The current plans to redevelop Exmouth seafront include a high-quality waterfront restaurant, an 80-bedroom hotel, as well as an area for play and leisure uses.

But those plans have faced delays – the latest following the council’s scrutiny committee in March agreeing that a panel ratifying the selection criteria for marketing it to developers was not properly balanced.

The scrutiny committee sent its recommendation over the constitution of the panel to full council to debate, before it will go back to the cabinet for a final decision.

At Thursday’s scrutiny committee meeting, Cllr Cathy Gardner, chairman of the committee, confirmed the marketing exercise remains on hold until full council and cabinet have met.

Any decision over the future of the Queen’s Drive site is, under the constitution of the council, one for the cabinet to make.

They will have the option of accepting the recommendation of scrutiny and full council, or if they chose, are entitled to stick with their original decision.

Initially it had been hoped that bids would be received and reviewed this month, with a recommendation on a preferred developer/operator in July, but that timescale will now be delayed.

It means that the earliest that the marketing exercise can begin, subject to cabinet approval to continue with the project, is not likely to be until the end of June.

But following the resignation of Cllr Ben Ingham as the leader of the council, a new administration will be in charge for the council following Thursday’s extraordinary full council meeting, and they may take a different view on how the seafront should be developed.

Time though is running out for a final decision to be made as the attractions for the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park – only have permission to stay on the site until March 2022.