Port Royal future: ‘Let’s get the community on board’

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW - Credit: Archant

RESIDENTS have been challenged to come up with ideas on how to change the face of Sidmouth seafront by driving forces striving for a people-powered regeneration of Port Royal.

A once-shelved brief put together by a group of community members was this week hailed as a ‘starting-point’ in a move it is hoped will kick-start a long-awaited scheme for the area.

Sidmouth Town Council has vowed to engage with district authority bosses to develop proposals for the site – and civic leaders say public consultation will be ‘key’.

The Port Royal Steering Group (PRSG) dossier describes – but does not promote – a range of options, including high-rise, luxury flats, a pedestrian-friendly ‘leisure’ retreat, the detailed reworking of the Ham car parks and the introduction of a jetty for waterborne transport links. The conservation and refurbishment of the Drill Hall, or its demolition to make way for a more expensive regeneration of the whole area while retaining current uses, are also featured.

The only option ruled out on the grounds of ‘physical geography and costs’ is a substantial marina.

Robert Crick, secretary of the PRSG, met with town council representatives last week.

It was agreed that town representatives will take the lead in engaging the district council in developing positive plans for Port Royal – using the work of the group as a starting point.

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Mr Crick praised the talks as ‘very encouraging’.

“There has been no real forum for people to thrash out ideas and see which ones are viable – physically and financially,” he said.

“The town needs to have a say and think positively and creatively – and not just react to a plan that nobody wants.

“This really is a challenge to the town to come up with its own proposals.”

Town council chairman Stuart Hughes took part in brief talks last week and said: “There are some good ideas coming through.

“It is for the community to decide. Things won’t happen overnight.

“Let’s get all the community on board. Whatever Port Royal is going to look like in the future, it’s something the town needs to be consulted on. This is a kick-start to the whole project.”

Town clerk Christopher Holland added: “It is early days. Public consultation is key - but it doesn’t mean agreeing with everybody. I’m happy for the town council to be taking the lead in this.”

A district council spokesman said: “We look forward to receiving an approach from Sidmouth Town Council.”

Copies of the PRSG document are available at the library, museum and town council offices.

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