Owl’s summary of Moulding’s attempt to explain EDDC’s current “thinking”:
“We have been planning Exmouth Sea Front for 6 years and we know exactly what we are doing, even though our preferred bidder Moirai has only got initial ideas and we haven’t yet decided what Phase 3 will consist of or how much it will all cost. And it’s going to be completely built up yet very open – and sand drifts are exactly what everyone wants.”
The interview transcript:
“Simon Bates: In Exmouth a group of badgers are thought to be living near a former crazy golf course on the sea front, and they’re involved in a completely different type of dispute. At stake is the proposed multi-million pound development of the area, seen as crucial for Exmouth by East Devon District Council, but viewed by some locals as a terrible mistake for the town.
In the maelstrom, in the middle of it, trying to keep the peace is Adrian Campbell. Good morning Adrian. … What’s going on?
Adrian Campbell: Well, badgers and crazy golf – it does sound a bit peculiar I agree. On Queen’s Drive on the sea front in Exmouth the district council has plans for a quite a big development there. It’s close to the former crazy golf area. There’s also an amusement arcade nearby, and an old railway carriage cafe used to be there.
Now some of these have already gone, they’ve been fenced off, big changes are planned for an idea originally called Exmouth Splash. There’s been consultation about that before. They want to develop this area. Its close to another development that has already taken place known as Ocean, which is a big bowling area that has been built on the sea front just down from the Premier Inn.
However, on this site are badgers, and local people say that they believe that they were under the crazy golf course. That seems to have been confirmed – not so many of them, as there is a bigger sett further off the site.
We spoke to Louise McAllister from Save Exmouth Seafront…
Louise MacAllister: It was alerted to me by a local resident that there were badgers living in this site up until very recently. So I was a little bit concerned that they had already gone ahead with the demolition, because you have to apply for a license to interfere with a sett, and I am just a little bit worried that East Devon District Council have not had the time to do that.
Simon Bates: Can we talk about East Devon District Council because this sounds like a labyrinthine one, let alone about the sett. What did they tell you?
Adrian Campbell: Well they have confirmed that they have, first of all, found out using an expert, Dr. Julian Brown, that there are two small setts, part of a more significant complex badger sett off the site. However, this is important, they say that they have been working with Natural England and they’ve been given a license to relocated them to a larger sett. And they say, basically, that the work that has been done so far won’t have caused any problem and is perfectly OK. So that is what they are saying, but you have this larger issue, much larger issue, about what’s going to happen in the area and lots of controversy about that.
Simon Bates: Yes. That is a story I hadn’t thought of. Because where do you put badgers, because they don’t automatically go into other badger setts because that is a confrontation situation.
Adrian Campbell: Well they wouldn’t go far apparently. They would go just to the bigger sett nearby, but off the site. That’s what they said.
Simon Bates: But would that be OK with those badgers that already occupy the bigger sett.
Adrian Campbell: I don’t know. I’m not a badger expert.
Simon Bates: No, neither am I. But you know what dogs are like, and basically that’s what we are talking about.
Adrian Campbell: I was just going to say, presumably under the advice of Natural England, it should be OK. But then you’ve got this larger issue about this whole area and the big changes that are being proposed. And, some people have asked about modernising this area.
Effectively, there is a boating lake there with swans on it. It’s a very traditional seaside kind of scene at the moment, or it has been, and what is talked about here is a really big change. Now some people are quite keen on that – other people are slightly concerned about it. We spoke to one gentleman, Robin Rule, and is what he was saying.
Robin Rule: Our main priorities now are to try to preserve the boating lake and the fun park. Because the boating lake and the fun park is in fact the face, the face, of Exmouth Seafront. Millions of people love it, whether you live here, whether you are visiting it from holiday or around. That’s what we want to try to hold onto.
Simon Bates: Its the traditional against the future, isn’t it. The swans on the boating lake – I suppose you can call iconic. And then there are the other attractions that have been there for donkeys years vs. the new face of the seafront, the bowling centre you talked about, the Exmouth Ocean. Which vision do you think will win out?
Adrian Campbell: Well when you look at the plans, and I am looking at a plan that goes back to 2013, a big graphic showing what is proposed. Now the council has told me that it has changed quite a lot, but it’s a really large site. Some have told me locally it would be similar in size to the town centre of Exmouth, but right on the seafront. Now some people are a bit concerned about that, and you will hear from the council in a minute. We spoke to an independent councillor, Megan Armstrong, she’s quite worked up about it.
Cllr Megan Armstrong: What concerns people is that as soon as one building goes up it’s setting the scene for a whole more other buildings going up. And people just don’t want that. They like the openness, they like the facilities that are here because children love them, families love them, and they’re reasonably priced because a lot of people who come here don’t have a lot of money, and they’re families with children, at that’s why we get a lot of people coming here.
Simon Bates: Well, there’s the independent councillor Megan Armstrong. We’ve got, as you’ve hinted there Adrian, Cllr Andrew Moulding.
Good morning Cllr Moulding. Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council.
Adrian Campbell: Cllr, Good Morning. You’ve heard the reaction of some of the people there that we have spoken to. First of all, with the badgers, has the council got it right?
Cllr Andrew Moulding: Well, I heard your report, Adrian, on the situation with the badgers which is exactly as you stated. The council has a license from Natural England and during this sensitive process that is what we have to have. We have, and again you are quite right, we have a badger expert. He’s a leading consultant on badgers in the country, and that is Dr. Julian Brown. He’s identified that these two small setts are part of a more significant complex badger sett which is off the site, and in consultation with Dr Brown, the badgers who are living in these two small badger setts can quite amicably be relocated to the larger sett. And that’s what under the advice of Dr Brown and with the license from Natural England, that is what the council are carrying out.
Adrian Campbell: But what about the scale of this? Because people are saying in the area, people that we spoke to yesterday, and admittedly though a self-selecting group who turned up, but they are talking about the scale of this. I mean, how many millions is this going to cost, and how big is phase one, two and three?
Cllr Andrew Moulding: We don’t know the overall cost of this yet. What we do know is that we have put the project into three phases. The first phase is to relocate the road and the car park, so that the car park is further to the rear of the site and not inhibiting the views across the estuary. Similarly with the road. That will allow access to visitors and residents to the sea front. That will be stage one.
Stage two will be a very exciting water sports centre, built on the …
Adrian Campbell: It’s big isn’t it? It’s going to be very big?
Cllr Andrew Moulding: Oh yes, it’s pretty big, yes. It will, but it will encompass a water sports centre for people who are doing kite-surfing and so on, but also there will be an open-air performance space there, a number of small units that trade in water sports. So the attraction of water sports to Exmouth has always been well known. We already have national competitions at Exmouth and we obviously feel that this is something that will be well appreciated by visitors and locals alike.
Adrian Campbell: But just briefly, do you understand the concerns of local people who are saying that the scale of this dwarfs what has been there in the past traditionally. You’ve got the bowling centre down the road – they say that the council’s taken that on because it wasn’t making enough money, I don’t know whether that’s right or not. But they question whether or not there is the demand for all of this. And they also say this is a special area.
Cllr Andrew Moulding: Yes. There would almost be an anchor at each end. So you’ve got Ocean at one end, you’ll have the water sports centre at the other end, inbetween phase three is the development of what was the old fun park – or still is because we are allowing the tenant of the fun park to trade for another season while the details of that part of the site are being developed – so he will carry on and trade there until such time as we need the site to be vacated so that the phase three work can go ahead. That’s still to be determined …
Simon Bates: Actually, can I just jump in there Councillor Moulding because Adrian can’t ask you this, he’s is far too nice a man. It all sounds a bit woolly.
Cllr Andrew Moulding: No not woolly at all. I mean its a plan that’s been in the offing for about the last six years. Now at last it is coming to fruition. And obviously there are stages one needs to go through to arrange the necessary planning details, and so on. That is going through process at the moment. The first phase, as I say, is to relocate the road, move the car park, and then to get the water sports centre built, and then we can look in more detail at phase three which is the remainder of the site. We very much hope that the majority of the area will be open and free to people to use.
Simon Bates: It’s a very exposed site as well, isn’t it Councillor? You’ve got high seas and sand blowing in during the winter.
Cllr Andrew Moulding: That’s the beauty of the site. I mean, that’s what everybody likes about it. That it is …
Simon Bates: Yes, but your going to build up the whole place aren’t you?
Cllr Andrew Moulding: The water sports centre will have open spaces within it. But its a development which has been well planned, we are working with the …
Adrian Campbell: But you haven’t got drawings or architect’s plans yet, have you? And you haven;t got a developer as I understand, so people are saying that the area’s closed off, and they can’t get to it and use it.
Cllr Andrew Moulding: Well, we have the water sports centre, [sniggering heard in background] and we have a preferred developer in place, Moirai, who have come up with some initial proposals. We are looking closely at those to see if it is exactly what is required, we shall look carefully at that as phase three while the tenant is still on site so that the people of Exmouth can enjoy facilities on the site until we are ready to go forward with the next stage.
Simon Bates: Councillor, thank you very much indeed. Adrian, I think that’s all we are going to get, don’t you?
Adrian Campbell: I know. Thank you, Simon.
[Sounds of laughter from Simon Bates]
Simon Bates: Stay across it. Beaver or should I say badger away. Adrian Campbell, thank you very much indeed.”