Exmouth traders celebrate outdoor furniture U-turn

As the local economy begins to re-open, what we need is a local council that listens and is prepared to adapt to the “New Normal” whatever that maybe, particularly in the town centres.

The new administration at EDDC, in the short time it has been in control, shows promising signs of genuinely listening to residents and businesses, and being prepared to react swiftly.

In contrast, Owl’s view is that Devon County Council is stuck in a rut. This is demonstrated by the ponderous suggestion, in this case, of undertaking a “consultation”.

In a recent post Owl reviewed how, last March,  our politicians in Central Government, in Devon County and East Devon failed to rise to the challenge and show leadership, with a few shining exceptions. Since then the “Old Guard” ar EDDC has been replaced by the “New Guard”. The same needs to happen at County Hall.

Exmouth traders celebrate outdoor furniture U-turn

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

With just three days to go before hospitality businesses have been given the go-ahead to reopen outdoors, traders in Exmouth have welcomed a ‘significant’ council U-turn which will enable them to keep up outdoor furniture.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) and Devon County Council (DCC) had told businesses that tables and chairs, and even marquees, would need to be taken down each day.

DevonLive reported today, April 9, how George Nightingale, owner of independent award-winning Exmouth pub and restaurant Spoken, did not know whether it would be financially viable to reopen as from April 12, due to lease restrictions which were said to be affecting businesses across East Devon.

However, Spoken, which is situated in the pedestrianised area of the Strand, has now been told by EDDC that it has listened to feedback relating to its sitting-out consent rules and is now offering businesses in the Strand ‘business tenancies’ which will enable them to place tables, chairs and planters/ barriers and temporary marquees is designated areas which can be left out at night.

The new tenancies will be in force until September 30, 2021.

Delighted by the news, George said: “It’s a wonderful result for all the businesses in Exmouth, in particular, but it has far reaching consequences perhaps for other businesses in East Devon and beyond.

“The final details are yet to be thrashed out, but it’s definitely something to look forward to. It makes the area much more usable for all our businesses and also for the locals and visitors to Exmouth.”

The news is also being welcomed by Spoken’s 17 members of staff.

He said: “They will now be able to have more hours and will be able to get paid and move forward as a result of this.”

George also thanked the council for listening to traders concerns.

Spoken in The Strand without any street furniture outside

Spoken in The Strand without any street furniture outside (Image: Google)

He added: “This judgement is of huge significance not just for me, but also the other businesses within The Strand, in particular, all of who will honour the trust that is being placed in us – and not forgetting Exmouth as a whole.

“The Strand is a focal point and must been seen and used as such.

“This really is a genuine move to support business and I cannot thank the council enough. This is absolutely groundbreaking and I know that businesses in the town will not let them down.”

The Spoken began applying to use the outside space on a temporary basis for post-lockdown trading seven months ago.

It is claimed it was only three weeks ago they were told by DCC the matter was going to ‘consultation’. The problem related to a clause in the lease which dates back to when the area outside the Spoken was previously a road 10 years ago.

In a story published earlier today by Devon Live, both EDDC and DCC said the rules over street furniture have to be observed. However, EDDC confirmed it was considering whether alternative agreements can be made to help traders.

Following the latest development, a spokesperson for East Devon District Council said: “We are in correspondence with owners of premises at The Strand and hope to agree a way in which they can all make a success of the forthcoming summer.”

DCC were approached for a comment.