D-Day in debate on Port Royal's future

Proposals for a 185-berth marina and the redevelopment of Port Royal are due to go before East Devon District Council this month in a crunch test of support.

Proposals for a 185-berth marina and the redevelopment of Port Royal are due to go before East Devon District Council this month in a crunch test of support.A negative response from the council's executive could effectively kill the controversial project, supported by hoteliers and traders.Rowan Carter, the developer behind the proposal, was hopeful councillors would support a project which, he said, would enhance the town's amenity appeal and boost its tourism and business economy. "This is a golden opportunity for Sidmouth," he said. "It has been talked about for years. Now is the time to do it but, if this opportunity goes bust, I don't think it will ever happen again."Confirmation that support for the project was due to be tested by the executive on January 31 was given by Councillor Graham Liverton when he addressed a meeting of the Vision for Sidmouth Group on Wednesday."I hope there will be a positive response," he said.The outcome is critical because it will decide whether Mr Carter and planning consultant Janine Banks take the project forward to a planning application and environmental impact assessment. A negative response from the executive would make that highly unlikely.Mrs Banks, who was at the Vision Group meeting, said redevelopment would include a civic building, shop, viewing gallery, visitor centre and a lifeboat launch facility."The impact of this marina would also provide some protection for the cliffs," she said. "What we want to do is to bring this forward. That is why the executive's meeting is very exciting. It gets things on the agenda again. This is your place. No-one is contemplating a development with proposals that the community and its elected representitives do not want."The marina proposal, worked in tandem with the on-shore redevelopment, would be financed from the private sector and she told one member, worried about access and the extra traffic, that a key concept of a marina was that its "traffic comes from the water".Councillor Liverton, EDDC environment portfolio holder, urged the Vision Group to "think bold" when considering the town's traffic and parking problems, an issue talked about for years."Some things you think are impossible are possible," he said. "I never thought I would say it, but I am coming round to park and ride as one of the answers. If you don't have a park and ride scheme you are going to spoil Sidmouth. You might as well close the town because the future is running away with us."Support for a marina, which has divided public opinion, was reaffirmed this week by Mark Seward, president of the Sidmouth Hoteliers' and Hospitality Association, and by Chris Taylor, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce.It would, said Mr Seward, redefine and enhance Sidmouth's position as one of England's finest coastal towns, while Mr Taylor said it would be good for the local economy."It might change the face of the seafront, though not detract from it if it is done properly," he added.

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