County chiefs to ‘explore’ ways of keeping £4.4million government funding for Exmouth amid fears the cash will be lost after town centre improvements were rejected

Government funds worth £4.4million could be diverted from publicly-disliked Exmouth town centre improvements to boost travel in the Brixington area.

Options are being explored for how more than £4 million of Levelling-Up cash will now be spent in Exmouth after residents objected to earlier proposals, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

Devon County Council is set to discuss with the Department for Transport how the £4.4 million could be used after a public consultation saw the majority of people reject part of the so-called Exmouth gateway scheme.

The plans involved filling in a subway outside Exmouth train station to provide more space for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, alongside a new signal crossing to replace the existing zebra one.

In its first public consultation, 60 per cent of respondents did not support closing the subway, with 64 per cent rejecting the idea in a subsequent survey.

The cash is part of a wider Destination Exmouth bid to the Levelling Up Fund, which secured the town a total of £15.7 million. This came with match funding of about £1.75 million from Devon County Council, East Devon District Council and Exmouth Town Council.

The bulk of this is for the Dinan Way extension, which connects the road to the A376 and moves traffic away from residential streets.

Some people, including Tiverton and Honiton MP Richard Foord, whose consitutency does not include Exmouth, have raised concerns that the £4.4 million could simply be redirected into the Dinan Way works to account for rising costs for that scheme.

“We learned [recently]that the gateway project around the station in Exmouth will not go ahead, and that roughly £4.4 million that had been earmarked for schemes to help with active travel will be shelved,” Mr Foord said in parliament.

“Instead, the more than £4 million will be rolled into the cost of the bypass in Dinan Way to offset the inflation that we have seen since the bid was submitted.

“If decisions around that investment had been made locally, we might have made different decisions, and we may have prioritised the funding and investment differently.”

But Devon County Council said its discussions with the government would include possible ‘active travel’ improvements around Dinan Way, and others close to the negotiations backed this suggestion.

A Devon County Council spokesperson said: “The decision not to proceed with the Exmouth gateway scheme was based on public feedback, and we couldn’t continue with the scheme without the support of the local community.

“We can now formally explore options with the DfT, including whether we can use remaining Levelling Up funds on delivering wider active travel benefits in the Dinan Way vicinity.”

‘I had to leave because of the abuse I was taking from a few residents’ – Exmouth Councillor speaks out amid now-shelved improvements which could lose the town a £4million government cash handout