Council suffers backlash over plan to move out of town hall

PUBLISHED: 09:08 19 August 2009 | UPDATED: 23:59 15 June 2010

SCORES of angry residents voiced their frustration at a packed meeting held on Monday over Seaton Town Council s plans to buy Willoughby House, writes Graham Britton.

SCORES of angry residents voiced their frustration at a packed meeting held on Monday over Seaton Town Council's plans to buy Willoughby House, writes Graham Britton.

More than 40 people filled the town hall, in Fore Street, to attend a public question time, chaired by the council clerk.

Members of the public were given more time than the usual 15 minutes, prior to the start of the formal meeting, to air their views on a possible purchase.

In a letter handed out before proceedings began, produced by the council chairman, who was not present, it was said an offer of £275,000 for Willoughby House had been made.

The council would need consent to change the use of the house from domestic to office use, if it were to relocate.

Glenn Salter, who works in a butchers shop in Queen Street, said he was annoyed there seemed to be a lack of public consultation over the proposals.

"It is out of order. This has been kept very quiet and low key," he said.

One annoyed member of the public, criticising the council for not being transparent over the issue, asked what other things they were doing that may become known later - a question which received rapturous applause.

District councillor Margaret Rogers said she was concerned about the vitality of the area if such a change went ahead.

She added: "I am worried about the loss of a town centre location for municipal matters and its relationship to regeneration with it moving further out."

Councillors declared a personal and prejudicial interest in the application.

Residents with questions not answered at the meeting were asked to submit them in writing.

The Herald detected a charged atmosphere in the council chamber as residents openly criticised the council for allegedly not consulting the public before making an offer on Willoughby House.

A public meeting, called by residents, will be held in the town hall at 7pm on Tuesday, August 25.


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