Exmouth's world-class skate park shows great things are possible | Opinion

  Posted: 15.01.22 at 07:11 by Councillor Paul Millar (Labour, Exmouth Halsdon Ward)

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Exmouth’s skate park facility in Phear Park is now world-class, the biggest in Devon, and one of the best quality in the country.

Before I was elected as a councillor, having never skated, I was unaware it was an Olympic sport.

After many months of building works, the facility opened in October. Thanks go to the skaters in Exmouth who have campaigned for a better facility for years, including Graham Hill, with whom I’ve been in almost constant contact with since my election nearly three years ago.

Probably my proudest moment as a councillor has been my contribution to this project, and it was a great honour to be thanked publicly by Graham, even though this is his and other skate park users’ brainchild.

I am proud also because of the amount of projects that start but don’t finish, and because it was done in partnership with the local community, not like so many attempted projects in recent history that have not truly listened to what local people want (*cough* Exmouth seafront *cough*).

As older residents are often pained to remind me, Exmouth has historically been considered an afterthought within East Devon District Council despite being by far the biggest town (EDDC owns a great deal of the town’s public land).

So, to win support from councillors who represent Sidmouth, Honiton, Seaton, Axminster for a significant £285,000 investment came as a pleasant surprise. That’s not to say it didn’t require hard work and persistence, as well as good planning by the professional council officers who got behind the project. Exmouth Town Council has been a fantastic partner, with Mayor Steve Gazzard and Town Clerk Lisa Bowman responsive and positive throughout to my regular lobbying.

Floodlights

However, the project is not quite completed yet. Since opening, the one thing everybody’s crying out for is floodlights - the benefits of having these is that this excellent facility can be used on cold winter evenings as well as hot summer ones.

Given the large cost in the 2020/21 budget, it felt too cheeky to ask then. But in the summer, I asked for a proposal to be drawn up by one of the council’s engineers, and last month, it was considered at a special private council meeting competing alongside many other bids.

With many projects rejected and postponed and the skate park one of the very last to be considered by the panel in a six-hour meeting, I was absolutely delighted that they were persuaded to fund one half and ask Exmouth Town Council fund the other one - a suggestion I made after some negative noises were made by the voting panel. Now we await the town council’s decision which will be made in the coming weeks. I have my fingers crossed.

If all is successful funding-wise with the town council, the district council will then need to put forward its own planning application and, if that’s agreed by the EDDC Planning Committee, I will be requesting that officers start work on installing the floodlights soon after that.

This is one of my top priorities for 2022 as there frankly aren’t enough high-quality sporting facilities for young people in a town of this size.

This facility is now busy at all times of the day and attracts skaters from across the country. I hope the facility continues to be respected and looked after.

I hope also that this marks the beginning of a renaissance in terms of council investment and grant applications for outdoor sporting facilities. For now, I’m determined to see this project through.

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