Is tourism important to East Devon District Council?

12 Feb

No – not if its track record is anything to go by.  EDDC does not have much interest in tourism, except where it impacts on the development (potential housing or industrial land) of  of members of the East Devon Business Forum, even though, according to the Western Morning News, the industry employs 90,000 people in Devon and Cornwall and is worth an estimated £4 billion-a-year.

Who fights for tourism in East Devon?  Well, it isn’t the East Devon Business Forum, although Councillor Graham Brown (really you could not make this up!) is the EDDC “Champion for Business and Tourism [shurely shom mistake: shouldn’t that be Champion for Business OR Tourism -ed?].

If you look at EDBF’s attendance list and minutes the main attendee with an interest in tourism at their meetings is the group that owns Crealy Adventure Park – but they mostly bleat on in the EDBF meetings about how many houses they want to build on land they own in the area.  Occasionally, but very infrequently, there is attendance by Pecorama or Seaton Tramway, but they rarely seem to attend two meetings in a row.

Their interest the first Local Development Framework Panel included ensuring that the large caravan park at Ladram Bay could be extended for a member of EDBF and that those EDBF members with tourism interests could also be accommodated in the Local Plan – though often for development of housing or industrial land around or beyond the tourism spots they own.

Yet, look at other parts of Devon.  We heard yesterday via the BBC website that

Torbay is getting more than £1.4m to help revive its struggling economy.  The money is among four handouts from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund for seaside areas.  Other beneficiaries include South Hams District Council, which will receive £450,347. Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust will get £150,000, while Plymouth City Council will receive £670,400.  In Torbay, which has the highest unemployment rate in Devon, the money is expected to create 350 jobs.  The Coastal Communities Fund was created in 2012 with money from the Crown Estates marine assets.

Does anyone recall East Devon District Council or the East Devon Business Forum going in to bat for the coastal communities in East Devon for this money?  No, they prefer to get the private sector to fund “improvements” by building hotels or supermarkets or concentrating solely on retail opportunities that bring in a rates income for the council.

Torbay’s share, which followed a bid by Torbay Development Agency, will support the development of start-up businesses, social enterprises and an apprenticeship scheme and a new cycle route around Cockington.  Plymouth also hopes to build more cycle lanes, linking the Barbican, the Hoe and the Royal William Yard.

SMALL businesses, social enterprises, apprenticeships, cycle routes … ah, the good old days.

When you go on to the EDDC website and search on tourism, you get sent to the website of another organisation (Heart of Devon) which covers the whole of Devon and there is also a list of Tourist Information offices in East Devon (many of which are fighting for their lives after support was withdrawn from most of them by the council), as well as a few generic links such as “beaches and coast”.  However,  there are also several links to EDDC revenue-generating assets such as car parks, Thelma Hulbert Gallery and the Manor Pavilion.  There is also a link to the Blackdown Hills AONB (of course!).  It isn’t exactly a riveting site for the would-be-visitor.

Perhaps Councillor Brown should turn his attention to the tourism part of his “Champion” job and to his stewardship of flood-hit Feniton for a while, though probably they will become MUCH more important as elections come due in May 2015.  Though maybe having taken care of Feniton so well, he might want to stand in another area of the district that needs his deft touch for spotting even greater economic and business potential.

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