District council pulls plug on Honiton centre plan
HONITON Town Council’s dream of delivering a new community centre and council offices on land off Dowell Street have been dealt a fatal blow.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) has withdrawn its offer of the land.
And the town council’s decision to proceed with the scheme, despite an overwhelming ‘no’ from those who voted during a town poll, has been cited as one of the reasons why.
The decision to rescind the land offer was taken in private at a meeting of EDDC’s executive board last week.
Minutes from that meeting reveal district councillors want the town council to look for an alternative site.
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“The board was not convinced that the proposed site of the community centre met its requirements or had gained the support of the town and believed that alternatives should be explored,” the minute states.
Honiton Town Council has blasted the decision, saying it was made for “political expediency”.
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In an official statement issued to the Midweek Herald, the council said it was “saddened by the manner in which the decision was made and communicated, given the close working relationship the town council has established with the district council”.
The statement said: “Developing the community complex has been a multi-agency partnership exemplified by the memorandum of association signed by East Devon District Council.
“The town council has been guided by East Devon officers, who designated the site at Lace Walk for a community centre some considerable time ago and advised that no other site was available.
“Further, East Devon has demonstrated its commitment to the project by making capital and revenue funding available, along with officer time to manage the project on the express wishes of the leader of the district council.
“That despite all of the above East Devon have jettisoned a key part of their support overnight, seemingly for political expediency and without reference to the interests of the town, casts the decision in a very unhealthy light.”
The statement concludes: “Opponents of aspects of the project may initially take the decision as good news, but the wider implications of the district council’s actions is likely to thwart aspirations to bring any form of improvement to the current provision of facilities for the town.”
The town council believes Honiton has been left to fall behind other towns, despite a three-fold growth in population in recent years.