Joining up ‘Natural Seaton’

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This month’s Natural Seaton festival was a great success. My wife and I took the boat trip and the Undercliff walk during the weekend, and I’m more than ever convinced that this is the right way for Seaton’s tourism effort to go. The world-heritage Jurassic Coast with its dramatic red cliffs, the striking estuary, the Wetlands skirted by the Tramway, Holyford Woods – all framing a classic seaside town – it should be a winning package. I know a lot of people are sceptical about the Jurassic centre, but it really is a great chance to pull this all together and attract more visitors to the town.

Seaton WetlandsHowever it’s still coming together, and a lot still needs to be done. The amazing Wetlands are under the radar, deliberately it appears, because the car park through the cemetery is too small (in contrast, there are fears that Seaton Jurassic may be over-provided with car parking). However I think the softly softly approach has been taken too far – no sign to the Wetlands off the A3052, no special page in the classy new Town Guide (indeed the main entrance isn’t even on its map), and not even a proper website. Google ‘Seaton Wetlands’ and you have to go through EDDC to reach the nice leaflet that they’ve produced: seaton-wetlands-leaflet-updated-apr

I was also struck that the Undercliff tours are not regularly available: the landowners apparently limit Natural England’s vehicle access to the start point. Moreover the tour focuses entirely on the physical aspects of how the Landslip happened and the flora that has established itself on Goat Island – the dramatic human story of 1839 isn’t part of it at all. I hope this is something the Seaton Jurassic displays will address, since coastal change (also erosion, for example) is one of the most vivid parts of the human story of Seaton – at least as interesting to most people as the geomorphology.

For selling Natural Seaton to reach its full potential, we still need a more joined-up approach.

Beach huts: what kind of asset?

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At Seaton Town Council’s public meeting at the beginning of this month, Cllr Geoff Pook, East Devon District Council’s Chair of Asset Management, described beach huts as a financial asset for the Council and his aim as to ‘identify the market rate’ and get the ‘best value’ for them – even if EDDC’s proposed auction (not supported by any of the hundred plus people present) did not go ahead.
49D1AB1A-F664-4D32-85B8-8D05703F91C1Surely, however, the sites and huts are community assets of the people of Seaton and other towns in East Devon, and should be valued primarily for the use which many residents make of them? Huts should continue to be provided as a service, primarily for local people, at a fixed, fair price which reflects the real costs – which Cllr Pook admitted he doesn’t even know.
The difficult issues are fairness between existing and would-be users of the huts. Since so many people are on waiting lists, what about providing additional sites in Seaton and elsewhere?
Pook also said that beach huts are not the only asset he is looking to raise more cash from – what next?