DWT ends tenure as operator of East Devon visitor attraction

Devon Wildlife Trust has announced that it is ending its tenure as the operator of the East Devon-based visitor attraction Seaton Jurassic.
Seaton Jurassic Logo

After five years of managing Seaton Jurassic, Devon Wildlife Trust has taken what it says was a ‘very tough decision’ not to continue in its role as the visitor attraction’s operator. The charity pointed to the ‘unique and unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic’, combined with the need to undertake substantial, costly renovations to the attraction’s exhibitions, as being at the heart of its decision.

Seaton Jurassic, which consists of exhibition galleries, education areas, gardens and a café, is owned by East Devon District Council and was opened in 2016. Since then, 250,000 visitors have come to explore its unique interpretation of the story of life and its evolution from the Jurassic to the present day.

However, the past 12 months has presented unique challenges to Seaton Jurassic. Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive, Harry Barton, said:

“We’re very proud of what we have achieved at Seaton Jurassic over the past five years. The team of staff and volunteers we’ve built have done great work establishing the centre. We have also developed good and supportive partnerships with East Devon District Council and the wider community of Seaton. However, the past year has been like no other. Visitor attractions throughout the UK have suffered greatly from the restrictions on travel and social distancing measures put in place as a result of Covid-19. This has meant that Seaton Jurassic has had to endure long periods of enforced closure and its visitor numbers have fallen. This has coincided with the need for significant investment to upgrade and refresh the exhibits alongside other changes to deliver a top-quality visitor experience. Reluctantly, we have decided that the risk of this financial investment, coupled with the many other challenges we face, mean that we will not continue as its operator.”

Councillor Nick Hookway, East Devon District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Tourism, Sports, Leisure and Culture, said:

“We’re very sorry to hear this news but understand that the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on many, including Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) and East Devon District Council (EDDC). Our partnership at Seaton Jurassic has been of immense benefit to the town and the many visitors that have enjoyed Seaton Jurassic. We are grateful to DWT for all their hard work and community engagement and we would certainly hope that we can work in partnership with DWT on future occasions. We will now examine the implications for the centre and announce in due course how we intend to move onto the next chapter for Seaton Jurassic.”

Councillor Paul Arnott, East Devon District Council’s Leader, added:

"We cannot let this moment pass without thanking the huge number of volunteers from Seaton who have given so much time to keep the centre going against the odds. EDDC will ensure that any future plans are the subject of a full community engagement with the people of Seaton."

Seaton Jurassic will remain closed after the current lockdown restrictions ease. However, a number of open days and one-off events is planned for the summer. People are urged to check with Seaton Jurassic’s website and social media for updates.

Enquiries to Seaton’s Tourist Information Centre, which is hosted by Seaton Jurassic, are continuing to be monitored and answered. The visitor attraction’s café, which is run by a separate operator, Taste of the West, will remain closed until at least 17th May.