Referendum bid over community centre

‘Timing is crucial’ residents’ association told.

A Honiton residents’ association is to call for a referendum over plans to develop a community centre on land next to the town’s magistrates’ court.

Mark Williams, the chief executive of East Devon District Council, is to be approached about the referendum “when the time is right”, a meeting of the Northcote Lane Area Residents’ Association heard last week.

Syd Taylor, of Bhutan Close, told the meeting that the timing of the application was crucial and that the association must get it right in order to be in with a chance of securing a referendum.

For more than an hour, residents discussed Honiton Town Council’s plan to develop the centre.

The debate was sparked by Ken Sherman, the association’s chairman, who said he hoped he hadn’t “overstepped the mark” by writing to the Prime Minister over his concerns about the centre.

Former mayor Joanna Bull said: “At least you got an acknowledgement - that’s more than we get from East Devon District Council.”

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Mr Sherman said he was concerned that council tax payers’ money is being ring fenced to repay a loan towards the cost of the centre.

“Who are they (Honiton Town Council) to say that?” he asked. “It doesn’t seem right to me. That �36,000 would go a long, long way to keeping the youth centre open.

“As long as I am fit and healthy, I will carry on asking loaded questions about this project.”

The association agreed to ask for a breakdown of figures, so members could ascertain how much has been spent, so far, on the project.

Concerns were expressed about the commercial viability of the centre.

“If you went to a bank with this proposition, you wouldn’t get past the doormat,” Mr Taylor told the meeting.

“The town poll demolished claims that widespread support existed for the community centre. If the widespread support was there, why was there such a low turnout? It suggests to me there was never widespread support. It is a myth.”

Mr Taylor, who went on to allege that a pressure group, in favour of the community centre, had taken over the town council, added: “A referendum is different than a town poll.

“There will come a point in time when we should be engaging the chief executive of East Devon District Council in a discussion about a referendum.”

The residents’ association is actively seeking to attract a legal expert to its ranks.