Cash can only be used to repay loan

Honiton Town Council explains why �36,000 must be spent on community centre project.

Money set aside by Honiton Town Council for the proposed community centre is to be used to repay a future loan for the project and cannot be used for anything else.

That is what the council has made clear following our report last week, which revealed the Prime Minister has asked a Government department to answer criticisms made by the chairman of the Northcote Lane Area Residents’ Association, Ken Sherman.

Mr Sherman would like to see part of the �36,000 spent on an effort to help Honiton Youth Centre survive public spending cuts.

A statement issued by the council said: “It is good to note that Mr Sherman is not against the building of a community complex, but has concerns about its siting and feels that the money could be put to better use.

“As has been reported in public on many occasions by the town council, the majority of the funding for this project is coming from the donation of land by East Devon District Council, money received from a developer for a community centre and a grant from the district council specifically for a community complex.

“If Honiton is not to lose this significant investment, the long-planned community complex needs to be built soon and it is for this reason that the councillors elected by the people of Honiton and democratically acting on their behalf have resolved to go ahead with this project and to take out a borrowing facility to ensure its completion.

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“The �36,000 in this year’s precept has been allocated for the repayment of the loan to be taken out and this has been agreed by the council. Once a budget has been set, it is not possible to change the criteria.

“However, the town council was also very aware this year of potential problems being faced by local organisations due to cut backs from other local authorities and set aside �10,000 to be available to support any such organisations; although this has been publicised widely, to date, the youth service has not approached the town council for this support.”

Responding to Mr Sherman’s concerns about the new proposed site for the community centre, in the car park next to the magistrates’ court, the council said: “Over the past two years, the town council has actively been looking for alternative sites in the town for the community complex and has fully shared this information with the public.

“During this time, it has become apparent that there is a critical shortage of empty land and/or existing buildings that would be suitable for the new facility.

“It has also become apparent that the use of any land or building other than that offered by East Devon District Council would result in additional cost for purchase and that the refurbishment of an existing building would not be achievable at a lower price than a new build.

“Other sites also bring with them the problem of lack of nearby parking and also closer proximity to residential areas.

“The town council recognises that the A373 is a road that presents a number of problems and it is for this reason that it has actively been speaking with Devon County Highways, the Highways Agency and East Devon District Council over possible improvements.

“However, the new site at Dowell Street is further away from the narrowest part of the road and is outside the Air Quality Management Area on which the town council is working with East Devon District Council.”