Great Design Projects Have Real Economic Value

Monday, 22 June 2009

weymouth_postThe historic English seaside town of Weymouth has been scuppered by SWRDA, (Design Week 24) Weymouth has been lead up the garden path. Encouraged to apply for government funding to regenerate its seafront and then to be refused at the eleventh hour. The opportunity to create a magnificent urban regeneration spectacular to be ready when the world spotlight shines on Weymouth at the Sailing Olympics has been thrown away. Zeta is a digital agency that started out in Weymouth.

Over a two year period every time Weymouth got its bid ready, SWRDA would say “hey wait a minute you should increase the bid” so Weymouth would re-visit the application and duly increase the parameters. Just imagine the processes involved, engaging with architects, designers, artists, lighting specialists to say nothing of the consultation processes with the locals. Not once or twice but three times Weymouth has been encouraged to raise its expectations and re-submit proposals. The value of the bid increased from around £2.2 million to potentially around £8 million with SWRDA agreeing in principle last November to grant funding of £6.6 million.

The Weymouth scheme wouldn’t have just been good for tourism in the usual way. It was to be ground breaking, an ambitious development not tied to a retailer but firmly committed to excellent design. You have to know Weymouth to understand the issues. It has a fine original Georgian seafront. Arguably “the original Georgian seafront” as George III built his summer residence in Weymouth and made sea bathing fashionable there. George’s “Bathing Machine” still stands in front of his statue, one of only two painted statues in England.

The “George III” square was to have been absolutely pivotal to the whole scheme with fine sculptures and inspirational road planning. The lighting and the entire project had sustainability at its very core. Not just for the materials used but working practices, transport and waste disposal.

Does Government understand the economic benefits of great creative projects? Politicians still don’t even appreciate the huge value of music and the creative arts to the economy. SWRDA totally failed to appreciate the real value of the Weymouth Seafront Project and the consequent damage their betrayal will cause.