Honiton: Community centre decision breaks mayor's heart

AN important document, which aimed to drive forward plans for Honiton s long-awaited �2m community centre complex, has failed to win the full backing of the town council.

AN important document, which aimed to drive forward plans for Honiton's long-awaited �2m community centre complex, has failed to win the full backing of the town council.

The report's recommendations are now on hold - until councillors have seen and approved the centre's business plan.

A previous business plan did not win the financial backing of Devon County Council or the National Lottery.

Councillor Michael Teare, chairman of the community centre steering group committee, presented the report, prepared by town clerk Lyn Hargood, to the council's September meeting.

"I think you've got a very good report here," he said. "I hope you have got a clearer picture of the progress we have been making."

But, a short while later, he asked to be excused and left the meeting - after a recorded vote failed to ratify the report's recommendations.

Most Read

As he left the meeting, he urged councillors to pull together and back the plan.

The report recommended, among other things, the centre be owned and managed by Honiton Town Council and that sub groups be formed to progress fund-raising, use of the centre and marketing.

The town council is to advertise for sub group members to come forward.

Building work on the centre was projected to start next year on the long stay car park behind Lace Walk, and a name for the centre has been chosen - The Beehive - the report stated.

Councillor Mike Allen asked: "Why are we being asked to ratify this report when we haven't seen the business plan? What authority has been given to advertise for members of sub groups?"

Councillor Teare said the steering group had been given the authority by the full council to move the project forward.

"If there's no business plan, there's no sense of liability," replied Councillor Allen.

"We don't want a committee driving the council's decisions," he said. "These should be council decisions, not committee or sub group decisions."

Councillor Ron Farnham said he did not feel the whole of the council or local residents would want the council to go ahead with decisions without first seeing the figures.

Councillor Roy Coombs said: "I feel this proposal is a bit previous."

He called for a town poll, but Councillor Teare reminded councillors of a special meeting that resolved Honiton Town Council would support the project. He added: "It gave the steering group committee the authority to move it forward."

Referring to Councillor Allen, he added: "As new councillors, you have to accept policy decisions of the council - even if you may have disagreed with them at the time."

Councillor Vera Howard said: "I was under the impression we would see a business plan before we made decisions. We've got half the money, where's the other million pounds going to come from?

"There will be even more people parking at Oaklea when that building is on the long stay car park."

Councillor Teare said the go-ahead to move the project forward was not dependent on the business plan.

It was revealed the town clerk is working on the business plan, although professional advice was to be sought over some aspects.

Councillor Vivienne Ash, the mayor, a long-standing supporter of the community centre plan, said all the relevant information would come before councillors in due course - as had been agreed in the past.

"I think, councillors, we want you all to come on board. We need your support," she said.

Councillor Allen was concerned about what had been agreed in the past and asked if the council's standing orders could be checked. He believed a resolution passed more than six months before could come back before the council to be rescinded.

In a recorded vote of six to five, with two abstentions, the council agreed not to resolve to own and manage the community centre complex until a business plan has been seen and approved.

Councillor Ash, who was one of those to abstain, said: "I abstained purposely - even though it broke my heart.

"It is disappointing, but we will respect this and come back with the information that is required."

Councillor Teare asked to be excused from the meeting, saying: "councillors need to decide if they are going to support this."

Deputy mayor Councillor Peter Fleming abstained from the vote.

In favour of Councillor Allen's proposal: Councillors Allen, Ayres, Coombs, Howard, Farnham, Corke.

Against: Councillors McGuire, Boom, Foster, Groves, Teare.

Information contained in the report

Honiton Community Centre complex is to be called The Beehive - to reflect the origins of Honiton's name, Honey Town, and the programme of activities planned to take place there.

Honiton Community Centre Steering Group envisages work starting on the �2m project in the spring or summer next year.

Only half of the �2m cost has been raised, so far.

There is no alternative site for the centre. It is still planned to erect it on the long stay section of Lace Walk car park.