THE success of Watchet’s East Quay development is helping to make up for the “very sorry spectacle” of the town’s marina, local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has claimed this week.

“The more the marina falls into decay, the more the fortunes of the East Quay centre appear to improve and the town has many reasons to be grateful for the way its success is reflected in the improving image of Watchet as a whole,” he said.

Mr Liddell-Grainger added that the centre was tapping into a whole new market sector and was completely transforming the town’s image.

He believed that the development, which features a gallery, artists’ studios, an education space, a restaurant and accommodation pods, had fulfilled all the predictions of the Onion Collective, the local co-operative which was behind its creation.

This, he said, was in stark contrast to the fortunes of the marina it overlooked. He said: “Some very wild claims were made for the marina’s potential economic impact on Watchet when it was being promoted which have sadly never been realised and thanks to a combination of inherent defects and appalling management, it now presents a very sorry spectacle indeed.

“Equally there were many who decried the whole concept of the East Quay centre from its design to its stated aims. In fact the centre is a vibrant multi-use venue and what I find most impressive is the way it is tapping into local culture, local history and local geology to attract a whole new segment of the tourism market.”

East Quay was built in 2021, the brainchild of four local women who make up the ‘Onion Collective’, its mission was to serve as a social enterprise to improve access to culture, business and education in Watchet.

The social enterprise puts on regular exhibits, hosts artists in on-site studios and holds a range of other cultural events. East Quay is currently preparing to launch its ‘Open About Identity’ contest, which has already seen 180 artists submit work to go before an independent panel to be judged for an award.

East Quay benefits from a number of funding sources, including the Arts Council and the government.