Seaton Jurassic Visitor Centre is to remain shut until East Devon council chiefs decide whether to sell, redesign or find another use for the £4.2million building.
The future of the attraction, which closed on September 17, is not set to be considered until next year.
Devon Wildlife Trust announced in March it would end its tenure of the venue after five years – pointing to the ‘unique and unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic’.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) says visitor numbers have plummeted during the coronavirus crisis from 48,000 people in 2019/20 to 18,000 since the start of this financial year.
Members of the authority’s cabinet were told this week that the building has a number of defects which would likely cost up to £200,000 to fix.
They agreed to set aside £45,000 until the end of the financial year to cover the ongoing running costs of the centre such as business rates, utilities, insurance, cleaning and security.
Councillors also resolved that, if the premises remains empty next summer, efforts will be made to use it as a café or something similar during the 2022 tourist season.
A request was made for the council’s Audit and Governance Committee to consider whether an independent review would help the authority ‘learn from the experience of promoting and developing the centre’.
EDDC leader Councillor Paul Arnott thanked the hundreds of volunteers who gave their time to ‘try and make a go’ of Seaton Jurassic.
He said: “My administration has inherited this sad state of affairs, but we will work tirelessly to make sure that the eventual outcome is a vast improvement on what exists and, out of respect for the thousands of free hours given by Seaton people doing their best, we will make sure we find out and publish how this project was commissioned against the better judgement of so many people at the time.”
EDDC says its first objective is to find a new operator which will continue to run the building as an interpretation centre focusing on the Jurassic Coast.
Its Countryside team has suggested creating a repurposed ‘Seaton Wetlands Visitor Centre’.
Another idea is to allow the building to be leased to someone who will run it as an interpretation centre but also ‘a more general attraction’.
The final option under consideration is to sell or rent the site to the highest bidder.
The hub is made up of a gift shop, meeting rooms, café, office, exhibition rooms and gardens.