Fury at Seaton council plans for house purchase

SEATON residents are furious at the prospect of being in hock for 25 years.

SEATON residents are furious at the prospect of being in hock for 25 years.

To show their protest at plans by Seaton Town Council to buy, renovate and turn a private home on the edge of town into new council offices, more than 200 signed letters and a petition during the first hour protestors set up shop in the market square.

"I am quite disgusted the town council has not consulted with the general public," said David Morgan, who helped save green space at Court Lane and get a skateboard park in 1997.

"This is a huge financial burden, not just on the town council but also on the taxpayers of Seaton."

The council has agreed to buy derelict Willoughby House and needs a loan of �500,000 to buy and do up the building.

With interest accruing over the 25 year loan, the sum to be repaid is more likely to be in the region of �800,000, he said.

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"It weakens the town council's ability to devote funding to other projects in the town which will benefit the whole community," said Seatonian Mr Morgan.

He is also concerned the council might try selling off assets it is taking over from EDDC; including Elizabeth Road playing field, for development to help offset these loan costs.

Former town mayor Rosemary Partridge Hogbin is against the purchase.

A resident 25 years, she said: "Why would I want to spend the money of residents when I am a resident? There was no consultation, they are just going to do it.

"How much is the precept going to go up? How many council houses could they build?"

Chris Byrne-Jones, who runs his chemist shop in Fore Street, agreed. "It is crazy to spend that money. I seriously believe the big problem is moving the business community out of the town centre."

Resident Margaret Clark said: "Seaton is systematically having its heart pulled out of it. Now is the time for change. Let's put its heart back."

She thought it would be "going down a slippery slope" to remove the town council from the Town Hall, leaving that vulnerable to being closed, which would be a "tragedy".

Grandmother of five, Val, a Seaton resident for 10 years, felt money should be spent on providing youth facilities.

"They should make that house into a youth centre, then people would support it," she said.

Former town councillor John Seward said: "Many residents would agree the main issue is lack of consultation on something of this size.

"They should be informed how an amount of money like this is going to be financed, that is what we want to know.

"It is not only this council, but the next six councils, who will have this burden if the loan is over 25 years."

Terry Croft from Lydgates Road said: "I am quite happy to sign this petition to throw more light. This has been done behind closed doors. Let's have open government.

"I think the town hall is quite an important edifice. The fact the council claims it rents one room so has to move, begs the question what EDDC proposes to do with the hall and should it be kept as a town hall?"

Retired couple Dorothy and Kenneth Coles from Harbour Road, favoured the purchase.

"It seems a good idea to get away from the town hall. They can have more functions there," said Mrs Coles.

"They pay EDDC, it might as well go to buy something they own, rather than rent.