Council u-turn means Axminster Guildhall’s warped and faded doors will be repaired not replaced

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What appeared to be an open and shut case for buying posh new oak doors for Axminster Guildhall has been rejected.

Town councillors have decided that the £6,000 cost is too much at a time when many of its cash-strapped citizens are finding it hard to make ends meet.

Instead, they agreed to make do and mend – repairing the existing doors and repainting them for about a third of the cost.

The decision marks a major U-turn for the council which originally voted in favour of solid wood doors for the showpiece hall.

But at their meeting last week several members, led by Councillor Douglas Hull, admitted to having second thoughts because of the rising costs involved.

Cllr Sue Spiller said she had changed her mind after hearing from people in the town concerned about spending so many thousands of pounds on them. “They do not see this as a priority,” she said.

“Refurbished doors would be considerably cheaper so I feel I made the wrong decision.”

Cllr Ian Hall said: “The way it will look to the public is they are having to make do in difficult times but we are not struggling as much as them if we can spend thousands of pounds. It is not the right time.”

Mayor Andrew Moulding said the present doors, installed in 1931, were very badly twisted and difficult to lock. He had asked a planning expert his opinion and was told: “The Guildhall is the most prominent building in Axminster and it needs to make a statement. Oak doors would make that statement.”

Cllr Paul Hayward agreed with that. He said repairs would not fix the existing doors. “They are warped forever and cannot be cured,” he said. “New doors would be an investment in this building and would see all of us out. They will enhance the beauty of this building and make it the premium establishment it already is. If you just paint this existing door you will have to keep doing it.

“You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig – it will still be a warped and damaged door.”

Cllr Moulding said, if they did agree to simply repair the existing doors, they had to be done properly.

“They have been painted on many occasions and always finish up the way they are now,” he said. “Within a year or so they start to split and the paint cracks. It looks dreadful in no time. So if we do go down this route it really has to be done properly.”

Cllr Sarah Leat said any thoughts that the financial situation was likely to improve in the next couple of years was “total wishful thinking”.

The council voted 9-2 in favour of repairing the existing Guildhall doors.

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