By Katy Griffin, Reporter
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Residents tell Honiton Town Council what they think of the Beehive project.
The public have told Honiton Town Council what they think of the Beehive project following the recent town poll.
At an extraordinary meeting, former councillor Jill McNally said: “This second town poll has told you in clear terms that you are not providing what this town wants.”
She said there was “room for manoeuvre” as she knew of a site that is not on the town council’s list of sites which were looked at for the centre.
This was echoed by resident and chairman of the Northcote Lane Area Residents’ Association Ken Sherman, who said: “We have now had two town polls, both resulting in overwhelming defeats for the supporters of the Beehive project. This tells us that 80 per cent plus of the electorate is just not interested in this project.”
He suggested that the town council proceed by either shelving the current plan, continuing and increasing fund-raising, or start negotiations with East Devon District Council to get a plot on any new housing estate instead of Section 106 monies.
He also suggested, when building starts, a management committee be established with non-council members as well as representatives from the council.
However, the significance of the town poll was questioned by resident John Burgess, who stated: “Those who oppose this scheme use the town poll result for 13 per cent of the electorate to claim a mandate against the building of the Beehive centre.”
He said the poll excluded those under 18, who when given an opportunity to vote in a community college e-poll were two thirds in favour, as well as local villages who will “benefit and to some extent pay for the centre”.
Former town councillor Dianne Morgan questioned whether the town council had a “plan B” to provide alternative council chambers.
She said: “It is widely known the current council chambers are under threat due to the lack of disabled facilities. However, I do not think it is right to rely on a complex being built in these uncertain times.”
Councillor Nick Cornwell replied: “If this project does not go forward and the council does not open the Beehive, the council has to find alternative premises at full commercial rent or purchase price.”
Deputy mayor Councillor Peter Halse told the meeting that no offer had been made to the town council to share offices with East Devon District Council when it moves to Honiton. He also stated there would not be any spare room to accommodate them and the move was still in its early stages.
Resident Janice Sharman asked how many users had given written confirmation not just verbal support to commit to the centre.
Cllr Cornwell said: “It would be totally unreasonable to ask them to fully commit before even putting a spade in the ground.
“The council has received strong indications that outline commitment is in place.”
The town council was also asked whether a shortfall in income of 10 per cent would put the centre in a loss-making situation and, if so, who would bear the costs.
Councillor Halse said: “A fall of 10 per cent will make any business suffer. We have to have courage and faith; that is what business people have.”
Cries of “you have not answered the question” arose from the public gallery.
Councillor John Taylor said: “Ten per cent will not threaten the community centre.” He said there were other ways of making up the income if it did make a loss.
John Dalton said: “It is shameful that what is arguably the most important town in East Devon has no suitable civic amenity while all surrounding towns have these facilities.”
Former town councillor Michael Teare, who has been part of a fund-raising team, said there was a lot of support for the project: “Almost all the businesses in town have supported us, hundreds of tickets have been sold and over £14,000 raised in a few months.”
“The opposition like the town poll has to be placed in context. In the case of the latter, 90 per cent of the town eligible to participate didn’t feel the need and, as the public meetings over Tesco showed, if people are strongly opposed to something they come out en-masse.”