Agenda item

Introduction to new Project Manager - Place & Prosperity (Exmouth)

Introduction to:

a)     Individual

b)     Role

c)     Priorities over next 6-9 months resulting in a report to Exmouth Queen’s Drive Delivery Group on a suite of delivery options and then necessary recommendations through to Cabinet.


The Service Lead Place, Assets & Commercialisation was pleased to introduce and welcome Gerry Mills as the new Project Manager for Place & Prosperity (Exmouth).  Introduction to Gerry and the Project Manager role included the following:

·        Gerry’s background is in economic development and place-making, with a delivery focus, comprising quite a unique skill set.  

·        The Project Manager role is about the long-term use of the various sites across Exmouth, how they contribute towards place-making and economy more generally, and what they give back.  It was stressed that the Project Manager role is not about buildings and development alone.

·        The role is one of two posts; the more junior post has not been filled and the funding for that post will likely be used to bring in additional support, when needed.

·        Priorities for the next 6-9 months include consultation and engagement to generate ideas, linking with other pieces of work across the council such as the Cultural Strategy, Tourism Strategy and work around economic development and growth, and pulling together business cases.  This will result in a report to the Delivery Group on a suite of delivery options, and then necessary recommendations through to Cabinet.


The new Project Manager for Place and Prosperity (Exmouth) delivered a presentation detailing his background including previous roles and the programmes he has managed, before inviting questions.


Comment and questions included:

·        Members welcomed Gerry, offered thanks for the introduction, and comment was made on his strong background and its relevance to the Project Manager role, and his excellent credentials.

·        A Member asked how the new Project Manager had gone about changing perceptions of an area, and how he would go about changing perceptions of Exmouth.  The Project Manager Place & Prosperity (Exmouth) responded that changing perceptions is challenging, and difficult to quantify.  It is important to assess the baseline by working with traders and the community to identify the current position and why a masterplan is needed to move development forward, and then reassess views at a later point in time to compare and contrast and recognise changes of perception.  He added that consultation is crucial to success, ensuring that people have a sense that their input is valued and built into the masterplan.

·        Responding to a Member’s question about the Project Manager’s knowledge of people’s concerns about the Queen’s Drive development, and issues that had gone before, the Project Manager stated that he had familiarised himself with the Delivery Group’s previous public meetings.  He observed that people were keen to see things moving forward and he would be driven by the Delivery Group on what the concept is and what the designs will look like. 

·        A Member commented that there are some negative connotations associated with a masterplan; there is a feeling that they do not always reflect what people want and often do not deliver results.  The Project Manager responded that a masterplan sets out the longer term vision in order to avoid a piecemeal badly designed structure.  Appropriate and proportionate consultation is important, with a view to getting a unified consensus on the vision for the Queen’s Drive space.  He added that a masterplan is a 10 year plus programme, so immediate results will not be evident, but it is important to do what can be done.

·        The Project Manager considered various mechanisms for consultation, in response to a Member’s concerns about response rates and the limitations of in-person consultation events.

·        A Member noted that the Project Manager had worked to connect the town and seafront in Stranraer in his previous role, and asked how this was done and whether lessons were learned that might be applicable in Exmouth.  The Member noted that a one-way system had been implemented; he outlined how he felt a similar system might benefit Exmouth, but expressed that people might get upset about it and added that it would, in any case, require the support of Devon County Council.  The Project Manager responded that changes had been made only following consultation and the key to connecting the town and waterfront had been i) successful engagement with traders and the local development group; ii) changing traffic priorities and how traffic flowed through the town; iii) architecturally opening up side streets leading to the waterfront to improve the view from the town to the waterfront; iv) closing off some of the side streets as part of the one-way system to reduce ‘rat-runs’ and make the streets more pedestrian-friendly; and v) lowering kerb heights and narrowing roads, which slowed traffic down, making the area safer for pedestrians and reducing accidents.


The Chair thanked the Project Manager for Place and Prosperity (Exmouth) for his contribution.