It is probably worthwhile repeating why this blog exists.
In October 2007 Tesco bought out Liatris Holdings Limited and now own
and control the vast majority of the Seaton Regeneration Area. They
have retained Liatris's planning consultants (TDP Partnership) and have,
as yet, come up with no new plans about what they wish to do with the
site and how they intend to do it.
Many groups have attempted to contact the Tesco spokesperson
(email@example.com) - most without success, although she has
agreed to speak to one sub-group of Seaton Development Trust at some
time in the future. As of today's date (1 February 2008) Tesco has made
no contact with Seaton Town Council to consult on the site and has made
no arrangements for a public consultation.
Previous part of this post (26th April)
The current planning application is for a major part of the Seaton Regeneration area site. This site is 18 hectares (44 acres) and is the only large remaining development site in the town. A part by the river (not in this planning application) is owned by a local company. The vast majority of the central area of the site (the holiday village, derelict caravan park) is owned by a developer (Liatris Holdings Ltd), the remaining part of the site (where the car park, tramway, tourist information centre and derelict youth club are) is owned by East Devon District Council (EDDC).
It is bounded to the north by a local nature reserve (25 acres), to the east by the River Axe, to the west by the town centre and to the south (some 200 m away) the beach and sea area - part of the World Heritage Jurassic coastline. The Southwest Coast path passes through the town and Seaton will be a major terminus for a new SUSTRANS cycle route from Minehead.
The town currently has a population of around 7,500 with a bias to those over 50 and particularly those over 65. Its largest industry is tourism. This is both day tourism (to visit the nature reserve, the Jurassic Coast, the beach, Seaton Tramway) and long-stay tourism (a 400 bed holiday village which is occupied 80% of the time, 50 weeks a year).
The town has no community centre, no youth facilities (the youth club on the development site has just closed), no arts facility, no indoor sports facilities, no meeting rooms for local clubs and societies. We do have a Town Hall (owned by EDDC but this consists of one massive ground floor room and two very small rooms upstairs (max 20 people per room) with no access for people with disabilities as it has only stair access. The Town Hall costs so much to hire, few local groups can afford to use it.
At the moment, the people of the town use the facilities at the holiday village - gym, fun pool, a 30 place day nursery at which 28 of the children are local and meeting rooms.
We worked with EDDC for about 4 years to develop a plan which was a compromise between what local people wanted and what EDDC felt we should have - this became the Seaton Regeneration Area Development Brief (see link opposite). It stated that we needed community facilities, an iconic Jurassic Coast Visitor Centre, some housing, some live/work units and some shops It was based on a wide boulevard (with central parking) which led the eye down to the river from the town or up to the town from the river. It retained the land where the holiday village is for long-stay tourism (much was made of the need to retain this facility in the Local Plan and the Development Brief). However, buried on the back page of this development brief there was a killer paragraph which says:
"Whilst a broad assessment has been undertaken to determine the overall viability of the development brief, this has not been able to take into account the full range of contributions which would be sought or the precise level of infrastructure costs. There will therefore need to be a more detailed appraisal of costs and values before the level of contributions can be determined. ..... The actual disposition of the uses within the site however is not prescriptive."
It transpires that EDDC had known all along that the site would need to be raised and that this would require infill but had not told us this. This made the entire development brief unviable - four wasted years. No detailed appraisal of costs and values was then made by EDDC - this came from the developer when he put his planning application in and showed that cost of infilling were so high, almost none of the benefits described in the document would be affordable.
In order to progress the current planning application, it will be necessary to:
1. Bring in 1 million tons of infill to raise the site up up to 2m. This will take 65-90 lorries per day, 10 hours per day, 6 days per week for between 3-4 YEARS (yes, that is right YEARS). This approximates to roughly one lorry every 3 minutes in one direction or other on the two minor roads which lead into the town - Seaton Down Hill or Harepath Road. Lorries will also have to come through local villages to reach Seaton.
2. We lose the holiday village and with it 90% of our overnight tourism capacity (and more than 60% of the tourist capacity in the area from Branscome to Axmouth and north to Colyton).
3. We therefore lose all our community facilities, none of which will be replaced (actually there has been talk of a small room - 30 sq m which could be a meeting room OR gym OR nursery but it is only talk). There will be no replacement of the overnight tourist accommodation.
4. Flood relief to the site and surrounding properties will be by means of a monsoon drain (50 ft wide, 10 feet deep, 20 feet across the bottom). This will be grassed and paved and called a "walkway and cycleway" even though it leads to a dead end. If it fills with more than 10 inches of water it will sweep a man off his feet. This will be the ONLY public open space on the site with the exception of a small paved square at the entrance to the supermarket (called a "town square" but actually the entrance to supermarket, tramway and visitor centre and the only primary route into town, which would be through the back of the Co-op car park).
5. The "iconic" visitor centre will have a footprint of only 500 sq m and will need to be 3 storeys high to accommodate interpretation material. It will be between a main road (the Underfleet) and a 5,000 sq m supermarket which itself will be next to a 2,600 sq m non-food store (our current largest shop - a Co-op supermarket - is 750 sq m). This cannot be iconic or worth a long trip for a visit.
6. The supermarket will be 6 times the size of our largest shop in the town, the non food store nearly 4 times larger. The supermarket will have 555 parking spaces which will need to be shared with tourists who will be allowed to stay for no more than 3 hours - after that they will pay a fine. There will be no links to the small, independent stores in the current high street (Fore Street). What is called the "link" is turning a roundabout into a T-junction, which has to happen anyway.
7. On the entire site there will be about 650 houses in total - this will mean about 1,500 extra people in the town, of which some 300 are expected to get jobs with the new store and small shops. (150 will lose their jobs at the holiday village, so the net gain would be about 150 mostly part-time and low-paid jobs). This will leave several hundred people on the site without jobs. Our quota for the district to 2011 is 300 homes in total, according to the Local Plan, of which about half have already been built. There will be no extra infrastructure (roads, community facilities etc) either for the town or for the new residents on this site.
8. Affordable housing should total about 180 homes. However, in November 2005 the developer applied to a public inquiry to reduce this to 75 due to the cost of building up the site.
9. Our local district council will receive money from the developer both for the land it owns and for allowing the developer to build on the site. They will spend this money on: (1) the affordable houses (see 8 above), (2) the tiny visitor centre (see 5 above) and (3) the purchase of 250 acres of marshland in addition to the 25 acres they currently own to develop a national nature reserve. There is no money for community facilities. We believe that the Wetlands project should use money from other sources and not from the regeneration site as we think it can attract all its funding from outside sources. The money will be spent on nothing else. Officially the money is to "replace or enhance" facilities which will be lost. EDDC say that the tiny Visitor Centre and the extension of the marshes is adequate replacement and enhancement for lost facilities.
10. The District Council has already agreed (in November 2006) that as soon as the developer receives planning permission (from the District Council) on that day it will sell its land to the developer to "facilitate development". It will not be offered, with planning permission, on the open market. At first they wanted to delegate this to two people (one councillor and one council officer) but we forced them to ensure that this is considered by the Council Executive Committee.
The planning application has so far attracted nearly 900 objections and 8 letters of support. One letter of support has as many cons as pros and one states that the writer supports the planning application because he might at last be able to get his hair washed and cut, instead of cut only, at a new barbers shop!
The developer paid for a 4 page "wrap round" to the local newspaper to trumpet the development before objections had to be in. This therefore persuaded only 6 people to write in support of their plans.
Meetings on this matter have never resulted in an audience of less than 300 and sometimes up to 600. When given only 48 hours notice of a debate about selling the District Council's land at the council offices some 10 miles away, we managed to get 130 people to turn up to protest on a wet and windy November night.
Since then the developer's agent has refused to meet with us. He has now said that he will meet with no more than 4 people, he wishes to control the agenda and he prefers to meet on a Friday after 2 pm!!!
The developer has never ever made contact with us, everything is left to his agent (who operates from Wolverhampton). All we know is that the company belongs to a larger group which has made its money out of developing (and selling) casinos - in particular a casino in a small seaside town (Westcliffe on Sea) which was the second largest casino in the country. It also seems to work in partnership with small holiday companies who sell "unviable" concerns to it which they then develop. Liatris Holdings Ltd is managed from the Channel Island by a group that manages money for "high net worth" individuals.
And there we are - a town united in its repugnance for what is being foisted upon it. An effort to build a modern slum - probably populated by older people and second-homers - with a massive supermarket suited to a town two or three or four times our size (though interestingly Sidmouth is the only town in the area that doesn't have a supermarket this size even though it is twice as large as Seaton) on one of the most beautiful sites in the country - and a flood plain at that.
Who listens to us? Well, you are reading this blog - perhaps you will listen to us. Or, if you are a resident of Seaton, work with us to get a better deal - we deserve it after the decades of under-investment by our local district council.
There ARE alternatives - have a look at the one worked up by Seaton Development Trust by clicking here
or the link in the right hand column and see which you prefer - the developer's plans or those created in the town.
If you want to help, get in touch, either through this blog or by contacting any Stand Up For Seaton campaigner.
Labels: why this blog exists