It has been a tumultuous week as far as Seaton’s longstanding Seafront Enhancement Scheme is concerned, and because of widespread public concern I feel that I should explain the situation from my point of view.
The scheme aims to completely revamp the built seafront between (and including) Fishermans Gap and the Moridunum. After years of work by Seaton Town Council, with the backing of EDDC, an attractive final version of the scheme – the fruit of excellent design work by Architectural Thread – was overwhelmingly supported in a public consultation in 2016 (the third consultation to support it) and received planning permission in 2017.
It was always envisaged that the scheme would be implemented in at least two stages, and between 2016 and 2018 it seemed as though the scheme would best be started in conjunction with the redevelopment of the Moridunum (owned by EDDC), probably in conjunction with the private redevelopment of Fosseway Court. However negotiations about this dragged on (they are still not concluded), and in 2019 the Town Council realised that it needed an alternative start to secure its planning permission.
This switched to Fisherman’s Gap and plans were finalised for a partial commencement, which would have greatly improved the links between the town centre and the seafront. The plans stalled for a considerable time in 2019 and early 2020 for various bureaucratic reasons, which Carl Northcott, working pro bono, the Town Clerk and I worked to resolve. Although further Covid delays meant we were running up against a 3-year deadline for the planning permission in August 2020, we were assured that a Covid-related legal extension meant that we could still start in early 2021.
Meanwhile, with changes in the membership of the Town Council, although a meeting in September had agreed to proceed, a special meeting in late December decided not to. When this became widely known after New Year, there was much criticism, and the Council called an open Zoom meeting, shown on Facebook, at which many members of the public showed their continuing support for the scheme.
After this, a very constructive meeting of the Town Council working group, with EDDC councillors and myself, put the scheme back on track – maybe in a better position than at any point in the last year – only this Monday.
Then – the bombshell. EDDC officers informed us that the extension to planning permission only applied to schemes whose permission ran to 19 August 2020 or after. The Seafront permission had expired on 8 August 2020. For the sake of 11 days, we had lost the possibility of a successful start, and the Town Council would have to reapply.
Councillors on all sides are now discussing where to go next. In my view, we still have a great scheme, and recent events have confirmed a general desire to make it happen. Let’s now develop a new plan for it to succeed.