Council goes for new community centre site

It is now or never, extraordinary meeting hears.

AFTER more than a quarter of a century in the planning, the development of Honiton Community Centre complex took a step forward this week.

Honiton Town Council decided to bite the bullet at an extraordinary meeting on Monday night and accepted East Devon District Council’s offer of land next to the magistrates’ court in Dowell Street.

The decision was not unanimous, with the following voting against the recommendation to borrow a maximum �600,000 to build the shell of the centre for �1.185m and fit out the first floor as a second phase: Roy Coombs and Vera Howard. Councillor Mike Allen abstained from the vote and councillors Dianne Morgan, Sue Groves and David Foster were not present.

Responding to a resident’s suggestion that the magistrates’ court building be converted to provide a community centre, deputy mayor Councillor Vernon Whitlock felt it was unsuitable, but said: “It is something the council could look into for the short period but, in the long term, I don’t think it is an option.”

During the meeting, concerns were raised by Councillor Mike Allen about the suitability of the Dowell Street site, because of its close proximity to a river bank and felt the council should not restrict itself to one particular site.

Councillor Peter Halse said: “If we don’t move ahead, in two years, the money won’t be there any more.”

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Councillor Alf Boom said: “I would support the idea that we go for that land without hesitation.

But Councillor Coombs asked: “Are we being pressed by East Devon to make a quick decision? Couldn’t a decision be taken by the new council?

Mayor Peter Fleming said any decision could be reviewed by the new council after elections in May. “It gives them a head start.,” he said. “We have got to proceed or, in two years, the money is gone.

“We have got the opportunity to move forward and put this to bed, finally.”

Councillor Allen said “If it was my money, the thing I would want to do is a site exploration to check the land is suitable before wasting any more money on it.”

Full story in tomorrow’s Midweek Herald.