Council votes for centre after mayor urges councillor to 'be brave'

PUBLISHED: 09:05 24 February 2010 | UPDATED: 00:58 16 June 2010

THE time is right to deliver Honiton s long-talked-about community centre. That was the view of former mayor Councillor Sally Casson when she addressed a special meeting of Honiton Town Council on Monday night.

THE time is right to deliver Honiton's long-talked-about community centre.

That was the view of former mayor Councillor Sally Casson when she addressed a special meeting of Honiton Town Council on Monday night.

"I feel the time is right to start this project off," she said. "It will be an asset to the town."

"Be brave." That was the message Councillor Vivienne Ash, the Mayor of Honiton, had for her fellow councillors.

She told them: "We have got to be brave tonight and take a positive decision. Look to the future of this town and invest now, because we need to provide this long-awaited facility."

Town and district councillor Peter Halse said plans had been "a long time in gestation, like a baby elephant".

"It has been a sad thing that, over the generations, nobody has had the courage to build a town hall," he said. "This is not just for the town council; it's a lot more than that.

"This is not just any old town; it is Honiton. I am proud of it and I support this plan."

Councillor Halse said financial problems had been overcome, with the council having already secured around half the cost of the £1.75 million project before borrowing.

"If we don't take the plunge while we can, it may not happen again," he said. "Now is the time, now is the hour."

Councillor Michael Teare, chairman of the community centre steering group, said loss of parking spaces on the long stay car park behind Lace Walk would be counteracted by efforts to improve parking across the town. He said the advantages of building the centre on the car park outweighed the disadvantages.

Every aspect of the project had been "developed at length", he said.

Extensive consultation had been carried out and "support was consistently demonstrated", he added.

On the subject of finances, Councillor Teare said: "This is a project that will benefit generations of Honitonians and have a minimal impact on ratepayers."

Former mayor Councillor Vernon Whitlock said now is a good time to borrow - while interest rates are at an historical low.

Councillors Vera Howard, Dianne Morgan, Ron Farnham and Roy Coombs spoke against the plan.

Councillor Howard said: "I am not against a community centre somewhere in Honiton but, with this site, we are losing 42 parking spaces and have nothing in any documents to say they are being replaced.

"I have spoken to people over the weekend and they were concerned about the burden of loan repayments on future taxpayers."

Councillor Morgan, who raised traffic concerns, went on to say: "I am a bit worried that support for this project would not be validated by a public vote.

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