A soft play zone, restaurant or café, and temporary exhibitions and talks were ideas put forward at a ‘mind-mapping’ session over the future of Seaton Jurassic Visitor Centre.
New and more varied exhibits and a layout re-design were also among topics discussed at the event attended by councillors and members of the community.
The £4.2million attraction is to remain shut until East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs decide whether to sell, redesign or find another use for the building.
The building will likely remain empty now until next summer…
EDDC’s cabinet will consider three options for the premises, which shut in September, next year.
The first is for Seaton Jurassic to continue as an interpretation centre, while the second is to turn it into a multi-use community building.
The third option, should the others not be feasible, would be for EDDC to sell or rent the site to the highest bidder.
EDDC officers and representatives from Devon Wildlife Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund, Jurassic Coast and Devon County Council were also at the ‘mind-mapping’ event.
An EDDC spokesperson said: “The workshop was held to see what the centre could be, in a best-case-scenario world, with the right resources and organisation or group to run it as a remodelled, new-look ‘interpretation centre’.
“The forum discussed how the centre could continue to showcase the area’s Jurassic heritage, but also with a wider natural environment and climate change theme and be run in a partnership with multiple organisations like businesses, community groups and charities which could share costs and attract different audiences back to the centre time and time again.
“This option would allow the building to include an interpretation centre that would continue to showcase Seaton’s journey through time and its climate change story while having ‘visitor appeal’ and contributing to the local economy.
“Ideas included a café or restaurant that could be open throughout the day and evening, a multi-use nature garden and space for community use that could host events like a cinema evening, group activities, community events and temporary exhibitions.
“It was also mentioned that the National History Museum had a number of exciting exhibitions that could be loaned out.
“Problems discussed at the meeting included issues with design defects of the building which could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to fix.
“This also did not include the cost to change the layout to make it a multi-use building with flexible spaces that could be used by a number of organisations, which would significantly increase the likelihood of the centre being financially successful.
“Another factor mentioned was the possible set-up costs, for a new-look multi-use interpretation centre including new exhibits that could be ran as part of a partnership and be financially successful in the long term, while respecting the areas cultural heritage.
“The option of continuing to use the building as an interpretation centre is being actively explored but EDDC do need to be mindful of the likely set-up costs involved and the importance of any new use being financially sustainable.
“The building will likely remain empty now until next summer, but EDDC has pledged to make every effort to ensure it can used as a café or something similar for a short time during the tourist season in 2022 as we understand the contribution that the building offers to the town and to attracting visitors.”