Exmouth Strand development delay as people power wins the day
By Western Morning News | Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 12:03
People power has scored a victory after a controversial development on Exmouth's Strand was withdrawn in the face of fierce opposition.
Devon County Council has ditched its plans for a £400,000 pavilion building at Exmouth Strand, which was due to be considered by East Devon planners yesterday.
It comes after residents launched a heated campaign amidst fears a cafe to be included in the building would detract from local businesses. They also felt the facility, which would have housed a bus shelter and an entertainment space, was the wrong design, and worried it would create activity which would disturb nearby residents.
Yesterday, Devon County Council said it would go back to the drawing board on the scheme, which was designed to be part of a £2 million regeneration of Exmouth.
Richard Benford, editor of the Exmouth Voice, which has campaigned against the pavilion building, said the authorities had only reacted because they had been “forced to listen until the sound begins to deafen them”.
He said: “It shows what can be done if people are determined to make something happen. I hope Devon County, East Devon District, and the town council learn from this and realise it is the people who are the boss, not them. The torch will be shone on everything they do and it will be highlighted over and over again until they realise nothing can be taken for granted.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transportation, hit headlines when he referred to opponents of the scheme as “whingers” last month.
He said the scheme was originally designed to kick-start the economy, but said: “We have listened to local opinion and have decided to take a breath, and reflect on the current scheme.”
Geoff Morris, chairman of Exmouth Residents’ Association, said he hoped the result would lead to better communication between councils and residents ahead of future plans. He said: “I’m still concerned that a building which was totally in contrast with the surrounding area, and incongruous next to existing buildings, was right for this area.”
He added: “It just goes to show what we whingers can achieve.”
Councillor Paul Diviani, East Devon District Council leader, said he respected Devon’s decision to withdraw, but said: “The regeneration of Exmouth through the various vital projects is of paramount importance to the town’s community of 36,000 and its economy – of which the Strand is a key component.
“The newly refurbished public realm is proving extremely popular and this demonstrates the success of the partnership in delivering projects from which residents, visitors and local businesses are all benefiting.”