Community centre given green light

Honiton Town Council votes to continue with plans to build the Beehive Community Centre.

Plans for a community centre in Honiton have been given the green light following an in-depth debate by Honiton Town Council and members of the public.

At an extraordinary meeting last Thursday, councillors voted to accept recommendations to continue building the Beehive Community Centre on Dowell Street.

Councillors Roy Coombs, Vera Howard and Mike Allen voted against the motion.

Members of the public came out in force with any spare seats being quickly snapped up - supporters and opposers came together to air their views.

Concerns centred on loan repayments, how the project was to be financed and how costs would be recovered if the centre made a loss.

While those in support emphasised the need for the centre, due to the lack of facilities in the town, which would bring in people from the town, surrounding villages and further afield.

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Councillor Nick Cornwell responded to claims the council was ignoring a recent town poll and said they were an “anomaly” in the democratic system and the framework of it was deeply flawed.

“I for one have not ignored the poll. This time one in 13 Honiton electors had serious reservations about the Beehive project in its current form. However, nearly everyone who has voiced such reservations want an alternative community centre project to go ahead.

“I personally don’t think there is a viable alternative.”

During the meeting he defended the council’s business plan. He said: “It is incredibly realistic to the point of pessimism.”

He added: “After several decades, not years, decades, of deliberation, can we really go searching and searching potentially for an alternative site?”

“It is now or never.”

Councillor Mike Allen requested the council hold “one final meeting” with the community college, the district council and the owner of the cattle market “in order to finally eliminate any alternative opportunity on that site.”

This was questioned by Councillor John Taylor. He said: “The thing about the cattle market is the cost of land is not free unless East Devon District Council give it to us. If the cost is already too much where is the cost for the land coming from?”

Deputy mayor Councillor Peter Halse said: “We have nothing in this town today because our forefathers made no provision.

“We have not done what some of the little villages did many years ago and it is shameful.

“If we don’t get on with it the clock is ticking away. East Devon District Council have set that and the time is going.”

He added: “The town is an awful lot of moaners and we must not do that - be positive.”

Councillor Vernon Whitlock felt the proposal being put forward by Cllr Allen was a ‘delay tactic’ - an accusation which he firmly denied.

Councillor John Zarczynski pointed out: “This is the first time in 20 years we have had the money and we have the site and have the backing to build it.”

He said if he had any concerns over the burden on the young people of this town he would not have supported it.

The financial costs of the project and “burden” on the town has been a major concern for many with interest on the loan being paid back over 50 years.

Cllr Taylor stated: “Everybody wants something for nothing. They want to borrow money for nothing.

“That money over 10 to 15 years is �5 a year for a tax payer. That is two cups of coffee a year. That is what you are arguing about for the current cost.”

He explained if the centre did make a loss there would be other ways to subsidise it.

Councillor Roy Coombs added: “Young people bear the responsibility and onus on what is decided by their forebearers.”

Councillor Vivienne Ash added: “We need to be positive and brave now. It will provide for the future of Honiton.”

The vote to push forward with the centre was met with cheers by members of the public.

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