Planning applications validated by EDDC for week beginning 13 June

Ten years since Exmouth seafront redevelopment plans proposed

It is now ten years since redevelopment plans for Exmouth seafront were first put forward. But now fresh proposals for something to finally happen on the site are moving closer.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

The plans have faced delay after delay – so much so that the temporary attractions installed in 2018 have had to be made permanent. Several visions for the Queen’s Drive site have come and gone and fallen by the wayside.

But now, East Devon District Council aims to move a step closer to finally ending the long wait. The start of exciting new plans to regenerate sites across Exmouth town centre and its seafront are beginning, with the launch of public workshops and an online questionnaire.

The Placemaking in Exmouth Town and Seafront Group – which is being led by East Devon District Council – is looking to gather residents’ and visitors’ thoughts on the key themes and characteristics they want to shape future developments. An online questionnaire focuses on the future for Exmouth, looking for views on how various key sites can be improved.

Two workshops will be also held for the general public on Thursday 14 July, from 7pm until 9.30pm, and on Sunday 31 July, from 10am until 12.30pm, at Exmouth’s Ocean Queen’s Drive on the top floor. All the views gathered will be used to help shape developments in Exmouth town centre and seafront in the future.

Cllr Paul Arnott, East Devon District Council’s leader, said: “Exmouth is by far the biggest community in East Devon, and it is vital to listen to the opinions and wishes of local people. We are very grateful indeed to all the town councillors, local residents and stakeholders who have advised us on how best to approach this new consultation and now look forward to hearing what everyone wishes to say. Thank you for taking part.”

The questionnaire asked people if they agree or disagree over improvements focused around the Jurassic Coast, a traditional seaside theme, a unique selling point, being open all year around, and whether it should offer something to everyone.

Questions are also asked about whether improvements need to be made to the town centre, to make the town more environmentally friendly, sport and leisure facilities, open spaces, derelict areas of Exmouth, and arts and culture facilities.

South West Research Company will also be conducting 400 on-street face-to-face interviews in July and August – 150 and 250 interviews respectively, on behalf of the council.

Cllr Nick Hookway, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder tourism, sport, leisure and culture, said: “At the first stakeholder session, which was held last Monday, there were many comments on how Exmouth needs to unlock the puzzle that visitors often experience when moving around the town centre to get to the Seafront.

“Exmouth is blessed with a superb seafront and together with the Exe Estuary Exmouth is an attractive place to visit. Exmouth is a lovely place to live and work in as well. However, there is a need to develop new places that will enhance the town, improve the visitor experience and provide better amenities for residents. New developments will lead to economic growth and provide job opportunities.

“EDDC would like to hear the views of residents as these new placemaking proposals are put forward. May I encourage as many residents as possible to take a few minutes to complete the consultation.”

It was back in 2012 when plans to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer first came forward, with the intervening period seeing several iterations of the plans not coming to fruition – with the scheme being referred to as ‘Exmouth’s Brexit’.

While phase 1 – the relocation of the Queen’s Drive road – and phase 2 – the watersports centre – have been completed and are open, phase 3, the longer term vision for the site remains in doubt.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive has been granted, and has been implemented, the council say, with the realignment of the road. The attractions currently on the Queen’s Drive space – the replacement for the former Fun Park now have planning permission to stay on the site permanently after two temporary were granted – but ultimately may not be the final use for the stretch of land.

In 2012, plans to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer, known as the Splash Zone, formed part of the Exmouth Masterplan which sets out future regeneration in the town The controversial plans divided opinion in the town in 2013 when more than 500 people completed questionnaires about the authority’s intention to redevelop the area between the old lifeboat station and the Maer, known as the Splash Zone.

When asked for a general opinion, 52 per cent of respondents of the questionnaires were in favour of the overall proposals with 41 per cent against. The remaining seven per cent did not express a preference. In December 2013, East Devon District Council’s Development Management Committee gave the go-ahead for the development of the Queen’s Drive area in Exmouth.

The outline permission includes the realignment of the road to give easier access to the beach and stunning views from the proposed new watersports hub, cafe and public open space. The detailed plans included luxury flats, shops, eateries, a multi-screen cinema and a new Harbour View Café and coastwatch tower.

At the same time, a new action group was launched to ‘save’ Exmouth seafront from developers, with Save Exmouth Seafront concerned that the £18m redevelopment would mean some of the town’s oldest most popular businesses closing. In October 2015, the Carriage Café on the seafront left the town. It had been open for nearly 50 years and the restored 1956 carriage business’s closing brought an end to an era for residents.

At around the same time, more than 1,000 residents and visitors took part in the Exmouth Seafront Survey, initiated by Cllr Megan Armstrong. Led by author and analyst Louise MacAllister, the survey aimed to discover if plans for a multi-screen cinema, outdoor water splash zone and adventure golf park were wanted by those who would be using the facilities.

East Devon District Council were then working with Moirai Capital Investments of Bournemouth to put forward proposals to “breathe new life into the nine acre council-owned seafront site at Queen’s Drive with a range of exciting leisure facilities”.

Organisers said the survey showed 95 per cent were against the redevelopment, it showed widespread support for the businesses at the time occupying the seafront and that many Exmouth residents felt their concerns regarding the plans had been ignored.

In April 2016, Exmouth residents went to the polls, and around 95 per cent of those who turned out to vote want more consultation on multi million-pound plans for Queen’s Drive. Called by concerned residents, the parish poll saw 4,754 people – 17.8 per cent of the electorate – take part. But the summer of 2016 saw Moirai Capital Investments sacked as the developer due to the length of time it had taken for them to bring more plans.

September 2016 saw the Jungle Fun attraction and Arnold Palmer Putting Course closed for the last time. Hours earlier, locals and tourists had flocked to the attraction for one last round. The crazy golf course was established around 40 years ago.

In November 2016, campaigners in Exmouth staged a protest march calling for further consultation on controversial seafront redevelopment plans. The Save Exmouth Seafront protesters set off from the lorry park in Marine Way and marched through Imperial Road, The Strand and Alexandra Terrace before finishing on the seafront.

April 2017 saw the reserved matters application for the seafront redevelopment approved. It meant the council could now go ahead and build the £18million redevelopment of a 3.6-hectare swathe of Queen’s Drive, but had no plans to do so. Had the application been rejected, it would have meant the outline permission for redevelopment would have no longer been extant and sent the project back to the drawing board. The Fun Park, run by the Wright family, closed after more than 40 years at the end of August 2017, with a vigil held and floral tributes presented.

A last gasp bid to reprieve the Fun Park from closure failed two weeks later, when East Devon councillors voted 26 to 21 against extending the lease of the Fun Park. The contents of the Fun Park were auctioned off the following day. The Harbour View café was also due to close at the same time, but has seen its lease extended, and is still operating now.

Floral tributes laid inside the swan at Exmouth Fun Park

Floral tributes laid inside the swan at Exmouth Fun Park

October 2017 saw Grenadier reveal their plans for the Watersports Centre, before submitting the formal planning application in February 2018, which was then approved in June 2018 by eight votes to five, with a full opening taking place in the early part of 2021.

The temporary attractions for the seafront at the Queen’s Drive Space, which include the food and drink area and the dinosaur-themed play park opened in May 2018, having been given planning permission in March 2018. Permission was initially granted for one year, followed by a second permission for a further three years. That expired in March 2022, but the council agreed to make that use permanent earlier this year.

Work began at the end of 2018 to realign the Queen’s Drive road, which was completed in June 2019, although questions have been raised about where the funding for the road, which East Devon District Council paid for, actually came from.

At the end of 2019, HemingwayDesign and Lambert Smith Hampton submitted their vision for Phase Three for Exmouth Seafront to East Devon District Council. The suggested uses for the site include a new two storey café/restaurant on the existing Harbour View café site to the south of Queen’s Drive, a mix of playspace (including free play) and open public space on the remainder of the site, and an 60–80 bed 3–4 star hotel of high design quality.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet, when they met on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, agreed to launch a formal marketing exercise to identify developer/operator partners for the Queen’s Drive site. But the council’s scrutiny committee then unanimously agreed that the panel for the purpose of agreeing the selection criteria for the commercial development was not properly balanced, and expressed their anger at how they felt Exmouth residents were not being listened to.

The current view of the Exmouth seafront site

That process was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and a change of administration, in August, full council accepted that recommendation and sent it back to cabinet, who are now able to make the decision they wish over the future of Queen’s Drive, although as of yet, no firm plans have come forward.

That meeting saw councillors agree and express a desire to ‘Get Seafront Done’, as Cllr Joe Whibley put it, but that as Exmouth is the biggest town in East Devon, it was critically important to the economy and the reputation of the council that they do the right thing and get a scheme that is both popular with the residents and viable in the long term.

The ultimate decision over what happens with Phase 3 will lie with the council’s cabinet, as under the council’s constitution, it falls within their remit rather than that of full council. They have now launched this latest consultation to once again gauge the views of residents in the town ahead of more concrete plans coming forward.

If you need a copy of this consultation on paper, in large print, or in any other format, please email: exmouthconsultation@eastdevon.gov.uk or call 01395 519960 by Friday, 12 August, or can be filled in online at https://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/exmouth-consultation-summer-2022/

Devon’s chief executive has decided to retire

Dr Phil Norrey is a fine example of what we should be able to expect from a local authority Chief Executive – Owl

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Devon County Council’s long-serving chief executive, Phil Norrey, has announced his retirement. Dr Norrey has held the post since 2006 and is the longest-serving chief executive in the council’s history.

He joined the authority in 1998 as deputy director of education before being promoted to director of education. Dr Norrey, who will be 60 next year, said it was the right time for him to leave and hand over to his successor as a new senior management team takes shape at County Hall.

He said: “Devon County Council has been a huge part of my life and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with some excellent colleagues to provide vital services to the people of Devon. This year the council has been building a talented new senior management team and it’s the right time for me to hand over to a successor with different talents and ideas to lead the authority as local government faces many new challenges.”

Dr Norrey said among the highlights of his career in Devon were the major reorganisation of education in Exeter, leading the council through a period of austerity, Devon’s response to the pandemic when the county council was the regional lead authority and its current leadership of the Green agenda with his chairmanship of the Devon Climate Change Emergency Response Group and the production of the Carbon Plan to cut emissions.

The introduction of daily rail services from Exeter to Okehampton and the creation of new railway stations including Marsh Barton, which is currently under construction, would help encourage people out of their cars and onto public transport, he said.

Dr Norrey has overseen a number of major projects such as the development of two new towns at Cranbrook and Sherford, the South Devon link road and the creation of Exeter’s innovative Science Park along with two waste to energy plants in Exeter and South Devon .

“I’m also proud that we have been consistently one of the top councils for recycling waste and, as a keen cyclist, the network of cycle trails that we have developed across the county,” he said.

Dr Norrey led the region’s chief executives in preparing for Brexit and the pandemic and has chaired the regional and national societies of chief executives.

“One of my predecessors told me when I was appointed that I would probably not want to do the job for more than 10 years,” said Dr Norrey. “It’s now been 16 and a half years and I certainly never intended to go on past my 60th birthday.”

In his retirement he plans to follow his beloved Burnley football club as they attempt to return to the Premiership at the first attempt, to cycle around Devon more and to pursue his keen interest in local history.

Devon County Council leader, John Hart, said: “Phil Norrey has given nearly a quarter of a century of exemplary service to this county and I will miss his wise advice and counsel and his help and support.

“He has a local, regional and national reputation and it is fitting that he has been Devon’s longest-serving chief executive. I wish him all the very best for a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

Backbenchers are laughing at ‘arrogant’ Boris Johnson after 2030 claim, rebel Tory MPs say

Would they include Simon Jupp? Owl thinks not but is open to be corrected.

By Hugo Gye, Arj Singh inews.co.uk 

Conservative opponents of Boris Johnson have responded angrily to the Prime Minister’s claim that he could continue in office beyond 2030.

Rebel MPs accused Mr Johnson of being “arrogant” by saying he is considering serving a third term in No 10 before he has completed his first, and with more than 100 backbenchers already opposed to him.

They also called on Cabinet ministers to follow the lead of Oliver Dowden by resigning in protest at the Prime Minister’s leadership.

Speaking in Rwanda, where he was attending a Commonwealth summit, Mr Johnson said: “At the moment I am thinking actively about the third term and you know, what could happen then. But I will review that when I get to it.” He confirmed that this could stretch to “the mid-2030s”.

He later clarified his remarks at the G7 summit in Germany, claiming he was making a point about being focused on the long-term challenges that the UK faces.

A leading rebel MP said that anti-Johnson backbenchers were “laughing” at the claim, which would see the Prime Minister extend his time in office beyond that of Margaret Thatcher.

The backbencher told i: “In three years he’s gone as far as Thatcher in 10. Popular in Ukraine does not equal popular at home.”

Most Cabinet ministers have remained publicly loyal to Mr Johnson despite the double by-election defeat on Friday. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, told Sky News: “This is somebody I think who is capable of winning a general election, delivering for our country, as he has done in the past.”

Mr Dowden resigned as Conservative party co-chair hours after it became clear that the Tories had been defeated by Labour in Wakefield and by the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton & Honiton.

He said that “somebody must take responsibility” for the party’s poor position in what was largely seen as a dig at Mr Johnson.

Tim Loughton, the long-serving MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, told Times Radio: “I’d like to see some ministers stand up to the Prime Minister and stand up for their own principles, and stand up for the Conservative Party and the Government. Because at the moment, we’ve got quite a few problems.”

Asked whether he thought it was realistic for Mr Johnson to continue until 2030, he said: “I don’t think it’s very helpful. I think it could be construed as a little arrogant. And I seem to recall Mrs Thatcher, when she was slightly on the ropes, talking about going on and on and on.”

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green criticised “the fashion of finding ‘wedge issues’ where you divide the population and leave your political opponents on the wrong side of an argument”.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he also appeared to call for a Cabinet revolt, saying: “It is not a secret that a significant proportion of the Cabinet think they could do a better job of leading the country than the current incumbent. Now would be a good time to demonstrate those leadership qualities.”

You are thrown over the side of a ship, and then you are left to drown

“And that’s how it works and fine, but I saw Mark Spencer on the podcast, Telegraph podcast, saying how caring they all were. I need to put it out on record, they are not.”

 ‘Probably done in’ by some of his colleagues, Neil Parish reflects on the “nasty” party – Owl

Disgraced ex Tory MP Neil Parish says ‘police confiscated his guns in case he shot himself’

Joe Middleton www.independent.co.uk 

Former Tory MP Neil Parish has claimed police took away his shotguns ‘for his own safety’ after he was forced to resign in disgrace.

Mr Parish, who previously represented Tiverton and Honiton, admitted in April he had watched pornography on his phone in Parliament in what he described as a “moment of madness”.

He initially claimed he was ‘looking for tractors’ online when he found the illicit material and later admitted to accessing the adult material deliberately.

When Mr Parish eventually quit as an MP on April 30, he triggered a by-election that was won by the Liberal Democrats on June 23.

Speaking to LBC’s Swarbrick On Sunday about the aftermath of the scandal, he said: “The police very kindly and rightly took away – because I am a farmer you see I’ve got shotguns – so they took those away from me.”

When asked why, he replied: “Because when you have blown up your parliamentary career for 12 years, you are not feeling in the best place, and they took them away for my own safety, not that I was going to shoot anybody else, in case I shot myself.

“I did say to them in a moment of black humour, ‘I am a very bad shot, I will probably miss’, but they didn’t naturally see the joke at the time, or nor was it very funny.”

Mr Parish claimed he received a number of death threats following the scandal and complained of constant cameras outside his house.

“It’s not easy,” he said, “And when you go to the chief whip and ask for help, you expect it. You are thrown over the side of a ship, and then you are left to drown.

“And that’s how it works and fine, but I saw Mark Spencer on the podcast, Telegraph podcast, saying how caring they all were. I need to put it out on record, they are not.

“Mark, actually, was much better than the present chief whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, but you know, this idea that they are all there, caring for us is nonsense.”

Mr Parish went on to claim he was ‘probably done in’ by some of his colleagues.

“I think probably I was,”he said. “Now, I was wrong to be watching it: it was very immoral, it wasn’t illegal, it was immoral, and I shouldn’t have been doing it.

“I was right in the corner of the House of Commons as you go into the lobby to vote, so this idea I think people have got that I was right in the middle of the House of Commons flaunting it is absolutely wrong.

“I wasn’t proud of what I was doing and it was very wrong I was doing it. But I didn’t spend any time in the last 12 years, shall I say, splitting on fellow members.

“I asked to be able to apologise if I caused offence, I was not given that opportunity by the chief whip and I was thrown to the press wolves.

“Have you had three days of the paparazzi outside of your house shouting abuse at you? It is enough to frighten anybody, and I don’t frighten easily.”

Devon and Cornwall Police have been approached for comment.