Both printed with permission:
In response to your front page article on the regeneration of Port Royal, I have to agree with the EDDC that a competition is premature.
The Vision Group for Sidmouth invested significant effort in public consultation in 2005-6 and came up with a wish-list of what the public would and would not like to see in a new development.
At that time they wanted to keep the sailing club, fish shop and lifeboat house (unless an alternative site could be found).
There was enthusiasm for a large performing space, but not at the expense of the Manor Pavilion; for an interpretation centre/schools' classroom facility, a re-located museum and exhibition space, an art gallery and a café/restaurant.
There was also support for a two-level parking facility.
There was a strong opinion that there should not be any more flats.
There was also a strong feeling that the frontage should conform to the Regency terrace design of the rest of the Esplanade, that it should not be higher than the existing buildings and, in particular, that it should not dominate over Pennington Point.
However, the Vision Group could not proceed any further than this wish-list without proper consideration of how such a scheme might be funded and the constraints that this would place on it, which we had neither the expertise nor the mandate to do.
We also recognised that Port Royal could not be considered in isolation from Sidmouth's town centre traffic/parking issue nor from the sea defences issue - there is no point in a development that no-one can get to or that will be washed away in a few years.
Your article suggests that Mr Mole intends to go straight from the public wish-list to a design competition, which is exactly what the Vision Group realised it could not do.
Of course, an updated public consultation could be a valuable input to a proper scoping exercise, but in itself is not a sufficient basis for a design.
The seemingly heavy-handed ‘regeneration’ of nearby coastal towns does not bode well for Sidmouth. The sell-off in Seaton has left it dominated by Tesco, and it appears to me a loose agreement to build affordable homes has been broken since the supermarket giant fell on hard times.
I believe things are not looking good, either, in Exmouth. The plans presented to the public there, for a seafront leisure complex, bear little resemblance to the residential development now proposed. Long-established small businesses have apparently been swept aside.
This week, EDDC’s regeneration team have turned their attention to Sidmouth, with an agreement to do a £10,000 ‘scoping report’ for the eastern end of the town, with the Town Council contributing £2,000. This arrangement suggests who is likely to have the most say.
Fortunately, much of the ‘scoping’ has already been done, voluntarily, by local organisations. In 2006, the Vision Group for Sidmouth presented EDDC with a detailed study on behalf of the town’s “residents, visitors and businesses”. More recently, the Save the Drill Hall campaign produced
architect’s plans of how that building could be transformed.
And right now, in a new and timely initiative, an international architecture competition has been launched, based on what local people want, — and don’t want. The
simple questions in phase 1-public consultation , can be completed at this link:
Best of all, the new Sidmouth Town Council are beginning work on a Neighbourhood Plan to establish what the town needs. If EDDC looks and listens, it could get the ‘regeneration’ right for THIS coastal town.
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