Tory anger at Queen’s
Drive ‘done deal’ gibes
CONSERVATIVES SAY ‘WE’RE THE ONLY PARTY
WITH EXMOUTH’S TRUE INTERESTS AT HEART’
East Devon Conservatives have reacted angrily to “politically motivated” claims that proposals for parts of the Queen’s Drive leisure upgrade in Exmouth are “a done deal”.
And they have called suggestions that officers working on the project for East Devon District Council should be sacked as “shameful”.
The Conservative Group were reacting to accusations made by East Devon Alliance (EDA) representatives at a meeting of EDDC’s Cabinet last week, when a decision was taken to persevere with proposals to reinvigorate the “tired” leisure zone to attract more visitors and make Exmouth a year-round holiday destination.
They believe that EDA are using a sense of uncertainty about the seafront proposals among a dwindling group of people in Exmouth to stir up unrest purely for political gain.
And they poured scorn on suggestions that officers working for the district council should be sacked for the part they are playing in delivering the vision for Exmouth described in the Exmouth Masterplan.
TIRED AND ANGRY
Phil Twiss, Conservative Group Secretary and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, said: “We’re growing tired and angry at the EDA’s continuing attempts to stir up protests against our plans to refresh and revive Exmouth’s seafront. We accept that there will always be people with differing views on the right ingredients for success, but the silent majority in Exmouth are not being represented by those who just want to stir up trouble to gain a perverse political advantage”.
He said suggestions that the emerging plans for a water-sports centre and other facilities on Queen’s Drive are a ‘done deal’ were absurd. “It shows either a very blinkered view – that anything they disagree with must be wrong – or a pitiful ignorance of the procedures that must be followed before any decisions are taken. All these procedures include public consultation and are subject to scrutiny by bodies like the town and county councils and the Regeneration Programme Board”.
He dismissed fears over funding shortfalls, saying the council was committed to delivering the proposals and was confident that these could be financed by a combination of private sector investment and grant funding.
Phil Twiss added that, against difficult odds, council officers were working hard to deliver the aspirations set out by the council’s Conservative leadership, which are not only consistent with ideas first outlined in the Exmouth Masterplan in 2011, but have been the subject of public scrutiny since. He said it was “shameful” to suggest that officers should be sacked when they were doing their job.
He went on: “Voters in Exmouth have long been fully aware of our plans – and yet we retained many Exmouth seats on the district council in 2015 and have won most by-elections in the town since then. We’re confident that we have a mandate from the public to forge ahead with our plans to reinvigorate the resort’s economy and improve employment opportunities for young people growing up in Exmouth.
“Exmouth Community College is the largest secondary school in the UK. We owe it to the young people studying hard and leaving school to provide employment opportunities for the many who would like to stay in the area, rather than being forced to move elsewhere by a shortage of jobs other than those offering only short-term, seasonal work.
“We have heard from a few people in Exmouth who have questions about the proposals. Many of these queries are based on a lack of knowledge about some aspects – or sometimes a wish to know details when a plan is in its early stages and details are still unavailable. We are committed to continue informing the town as proposals are firmed up and there will be ongoing chances to comment, but you can’t jump the gun on such a complex, many-faceted project.
“No planning application has yet been submitted by Grenadier as to their final vision for the water-sports centre, which we do know will be run by a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, with full public access. I understand they will carry out their consultation on the plans early in 2017, so people can offer their views when there is something specific to comment upon.
“Before the end of the year we hope to release analysis of a survey carried out among visitors to Exmouth during the summer. This research was carried out by an independent company and was designed to gain a better understanding of what will attract people to visit or holiday at the resort.
“We’ve also heard from people who agree with us that the long-standing facilities in Queen’s Drive are ‘tired’ and in urgent need of upgrading. We are grateful for this support, which we believe is more in tune with the views of the silent majority, many of whom just want to see improvements delivered without further delay, to make the most of our world-class estuary and sea views”.
Enthusiastic supporters include Exmouth Chamber of Commerce, which this month urged councillors to keep going and not succumb to pressure groups’ attempts at ‘delaying and frustrating’ efforts to raise the resort’s standard so it ‘reflects modern day requirements’ of residents and tourists alike.
Recent developments in Europe and the US could well boost interest in ‘staycations’ – holidays in the UK – and Phil Twiss said his party wanted to ensure that Exmouth had a world-class offering to help it compete for the business of thousands of potential British holidaymakers who want a range of all-weather facilities for families to enjoy.
He pointed to projects already completed in Exmouth that were now delivering a brighter future – despite initial opposition from “diehards”. These include the revitalised Strand, now a more vibrant retail space with an expanding café culture, and of course the highly successful Premier Inn, standing on a once hotly-contested site. The new, improved Mamhead Slipway would be opening quite soon, while plans have recently been announced to re-develop the long empty Thomas Tucker building.
Phil Twiss concluded: “Forward-thinkers are urging us to get on with our plans so that Exmouth can benefit from the improvements. Further delays that further increase costs will only be counter-productive. Conservatives will not be derailed from doing what’s best for Exmouth – especially not by political opportunists. We are the party with the town’s best interests at heart and we’re determined to deliver the brighter future that residents and visitors demand and deserve”.