Land withdrawn: Town council had no idea

THIS is a chastening experience for all the residents of Honiton - the view of the town’s deputy mayor and a leading member of Honiton Community Centre Association.

Councillor Vernon Whitlock has been a staunch supporter of the community centre plan since its inception and says there was no warning that East Devon District Council was about to withdraw its offer of land for the project. Honiton Town Council only found out about the decision when it was revealed in a council publication, made available at the end of last week.

Councillor Whitlock blames Conservative councillors at Knowle, including some members who represent Honiton.

“There was no indication of concerns and, right up to the last moment, officers of the district council were working closely with the town council,” he told the Midweek Herald.

Councillor Whitlock said: “Although the decision was made in a secret meeting, I understand that among those present were the Conservative leader of the council and Devon county councillor for Honiton Sara Randall Johnson, the Conservative chairman of Honiton Development Trust, Councillor Bob Buxton, and Conservative district councillor for Honiton Roger Boote.

“Neither they nor anyone else from the district council had the decency to inform the town council of the decision, which was discovered by reading it in a council publication.

“I eagerly await the minutes to see who moved and voted for this decision and to hold then to account. I suspect that this is a purely political decision. I hope I am proved wrong.”

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Councillor Whitlock says the district council made it clear from the outset that no other site was available in Honiton for a community centre.

“East Devon District Council has been making much of the need to work closely with town and parish councils,” he said. “This decision is a kick in the face to the town council and the many volunteers who have given thousands of hours to this project over the last 20 years.

“There is one, very clear, message from this sorry episode. Every organisation, town and parish council in East Devon should thing very hard before they enter into any relationship with the district council.”

Councillor Whitlock said he has noted that, at the same executive board meeting, district councillors agreed a free transfer of land for a community centre in Sidmouth.