Historic building identified as potential base for new tourist information centre in Honiton
PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 23 August 2018
A new tourist information centre (TIC) could be set up in Honiton after the town's museum was identified as a potential base.
The idea came to light after another unit in the town - which was put forward as an idea by the town’s deputy mayor Duncan Sheridan-Shaw, faced resistance from fellow councillors - including Honiton’s current, and former, mayor.
A lengthy debate at the first meeting of Honiton Town Council’s town management committee saw members trade opinion on where the new TIC should be installed.
Chair Cllr Sheridan-Shaw revealed he was currently looking at an empty unit in Lace Walk - previously occupied by Light and Beloved and a greengrocers - to use as a tourist information hub.
However, the idea did not sit well with some members.
Town mayor Cllr Henry Brown said: “I think we should working with community partners in town, such as the museum and library.”
He added that he found it ‘perverse’ that the costs of renting out the identified unit could eclipse the council’s entire grants budget.
Cllr Ray Hanratty told members he had been in discussions with Margaret Lewis, of Allhallows Musuem in Honiton, about the prospect of setting up a TIC there.
He added: “Margaret was saying there is no tourist information in Honiton and she had several vociferous complaints from tourists about the lack of facilities in the town.
“Margaret is very willing to host a tourist information centre of sorts in the museum. We could make a small contribution to the running costs of the museum.
“That would solve our immediate need.”
Cllr John Zarczynski said while he supported the idea, he believed it should be placed on the back-burner until the council was in a financially stronger position.
He added: “Our grant funding is nowhere near what it should be - we have more pressing needs in this town which we should be helping more than we have over the last few years.
“I think we need to hold back on this until our finances are in a different place - we need to buff up our areas of spending.”
The proposal ‘that the council approaches the museum and discusses setting up a tourist information centre at the museum’ received 13 votes for and one abstention.
Speaking after the meeting, Tony McCollum, chair of Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think the proposal is an excellent idea as many visitors already make such enquiries at the museum.
“Honiton has suffered for two years in not having a TIC, despite the large sign affixed to the A35 opposite the junction with Monkton Road that states otherwise. This has led to numerous complaints by visitors.
“I would view this as a temporary solution and I hope the museum trustees will view the request sympathetically, although it is not ideal due to limited space available in the museum, any TIC is better than none.
“I also believe the museum itself would benefit as TIC signs leading to the museum would no doubt increase their visitors and once inside, surely, they would be enthralled by the various galleries, the history of Honiton, Pottery, lace making and much more.”
Honiton has been without a proper tourist-focused facility since February 2016 after Honiton Tourist Information Centre Ltd ceased trading.
Speaking last year, Colin Wright, president of East Devon Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was just awful when the old TIC closed – people turned up in their droves to a closed building.
“If you think, we used to get 17,000 to 18,000 people through the door each year so you can imagine the impact it had when it closed.”