Exmouth: The future of Queen's Drive | Opinion

  Posted: 22.07.21 at 11:42 by Councillor Bruce de Saram (Exmouth Littleham Ward)

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In this month’s July article, as summer time approaches, I am going to focus on the future of the Queens Drive Space which has been dormant for a while now due to two things: firstly the Covid pandemic, and secondly a lack of regular monthly or quarterly Queens Drive Delivery Group Zoom meetings.

If we look back to October 2020 minutes we see that the majority of those who attended the first Queens Drive Delivery Group meeting under this new administration, raised concerns about the need to make Exmouth an all-year-round visitor destination: the need to create a contemporary space that is attractive to both visitors and residents and finally in return they all highlighted the benefit this would give to the local economy.

The idea of a hotel on Queens Drive was a worry to those who felt that it would be an inappropriate development for the site.

From these infrequent meetings, it has been suggested that the Queen’s Drive Delivery Group has listened to a wide range of opinions from Exmouth residents concerning the future development of this remaining site.

Moving forward to this July, we all know that we cannot as a council continue with the temporary use policy on the site for much longer especially since over the last nine months, the focus has been on the temporary uses for this season at Queen’s Drive Space.

We must all, as residents and councillors look at the bigger picture about the site’s long term sustainable economic future.

There are some who believe that what should go on the site is an interpretation centre which is a kind of new-style museum, often associated with visitor centres or eco-museums, and located in connection to cultural, historic or natural sites.

However, I would suggest that we already have a much-loved but under-used museum in Exmouth whose building was just purchased in March 2021 by its trustees.

As a result, what has transpired is that much additional fundraising is now needed by the museum itself to pay back the loan.

The question to be considered is does it make economic long-term sense to add yet another museum or interpretation centre to Queens Drive, which would then have to generate its own regular sustainable income to become financially viable to justify its cost. Otherwise, sadly it may suffer the same problems as the Seaton Jurassic Visitor Centre currently faces.

The council is also in the process of determining its current leisure strategy which will set a vision and key objectives for the council. So again, until that strategy is determined it’s hard to say what sort of sustainable leisure use the site might lend itself to. As readers you may have some ideas to put forward.

Finally, additional funding for a staffing resource to support this final phase of the project and other place-based projects in Exmouth has been brought to the delivery group so that once the job roles are approved, they can build on the initial work that has been undertaken.

As one of the ward members and local resident, I am pleased to see this. I am aware that plans for its longer-term future will come forward to the Queen’s Drive Delivery Group at their next meeting in September.

I look forward to working with them and my fellow Queens Drive Delivery Group members to come up with some of the long-term big picture answers and solutions the site so desperately needs.

The aim should be that we as a council can finally look to give closure to this project by early 2023 since it has already been ten years in the making.

In conclusion, it is my hope that as has been commented on by others, the council can get to the point whereby using these additional officer resources it meets the conflicting demands of providing attractions for visitors: a springboard for local businesses to invest and trade, as well as meeting the community's aspirations in terms of interpretation, environmental and cultural centres.

I would urge you as residents to hold the council and the current administration to account to see that some form of sustainable delivery does take place on the site.

As you may be aware the previous administration wanted the Queens Drive project to improve the economy of Exmouth by creating jobs, encouraging new businesses, hopefully increasing the length of the tourism season.

Exmouth needs visitors all the year round, not just those who choose to stay for holidays but also day visitors. It is important to us all that those young people who are in education or training at Exmouth Community College, Deaf Academy, Exeter College, Exeter University or Bicton College, have the opportunity to find jobs locally.

I hope that this article has given you a balanced view of some of the issues and challenges faced by Queens Drive Phase 3 as I see it and I welcome your feedback as readers and fellow residents of Exmouth on what you think should happen at Queens Drive. As they say, please don’t hold back your feedback.

Find your councillors online here.

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