‘Response fatigue’ fears over Port Royal projects

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0934-03-12AW

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0934-03-12AW - Credit: Archant

Civic leaders have echoed concerns that a competition to ‘re-imagine Port Royal’ is premature and could confuse residents.

Town councillors warned on Monday that an overlap between the architecture contest and other, unrelated schemes could cause confusion and ‘response fatigue’ – depleting public enthusiasm for any one project.

Re-imagining Port Royal was announced last week and is being led by a Sidmouth-born architect. The town council is also working on Sidmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan (NP) (see page 12) and in partnership with the district authority on a ‘scoping exercise’ (see page seven) for the regeneration of the whole eastern town.

At a meeting on Monday, Councillor Ian Barlow described Re-imagining Port Royal as a ‘wasted opportunity’, saying: “I think it’s too early. It would’ve been much better to wait a month or two to bring it in with the NP or the scoping exercise.”

Cllr Louise Cole, who has led the NP project so far, said: “I do think it [the architecture competition] is a little premature. We will have to double our efforts to make sure we are clear.”

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Cllr Ian McKenzie-Edwards added: “One of the initial things with the NP is to sustain public interest and involvement. If too many things are going on at once, we could have ‘response fatigue’.”

The competition was proposed by architect Henry Beech Mole and will see the best entries – which he hopes will come from across the globe – exhibited in Sidmouth this summer.

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The first stage is a questionnaire for residents, the results of which will be used to formulate a brief for the designers. District councillors Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson are backing the project, but not in their roles as elected members.

Cllr Gardner said: “We will do everything we can to inform people that three separate things will be going on in Sidmouth this year, all important. I hope that residents feel that this is the time to speak out and be heard – all the information collected as part of the preparation for the architecture competition will be shared publicly.

“The opportunity to stage this competition was too good an opportunity to refuse, many people are excited and keen to get involved.”

The questionnaire is at www.easterntownpartnership.com

For those wishing to give feedback on Re-imagining Port Royal in person, a meeting is being held tomorrow (Saturday) at the Unitarian Chapel in All Saints Road from 10am until noon.

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