Referendum call to save Seaton education centre

Public meeting called to muster support for a town poll to retain St Clare’s for the community

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to retain the St Clare’s adult education centre at Seaton for community use are calling for a town referendum.

They plan to muster support for the poll at a pubic meeting in the United Reformed Church at 6pm on Thursday.

It has been called by The Friends of St Clare’s – the group formed by three ex-mayors of Seaton, Jim Knight, Barbara-Dearden Potter and Sandra Semple, to safeguard the centre.

The St Clare’s site currently belongs to Devon County Council which has given notice that it will be sold this summer.

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In the meantime the town council has agreed to buy it and has been given until July by the county to come up with plans for the site and the necessary cash.

But The Friends groups says it is concerned that although a town council working party on St Clare’s has met several times, the full town council has never indicated whether it will acquire the site.

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Now they want the required minimum 10 people to sign a petition calling for referendum on the building’s future at tomorrow’s meeting.

The only item on the agenda will be the suggested question on the poll which is: “Are you in favour of Seaton Town Council acquiring the St Clare’s Adult Education College site and buildings for the benefit of the people of Seaton?”

If backed, the request for a referendum will go to East Devon District Council, which must organise it. Seaton Town Council will be required to pay the cost.

Sandra Semple, speaking on behalf of Friends of St Clare’s said: “The town council already has more than 800 individual petitions from people in the town who want it to acquire the site. This doesn’t seem to be enough to convince them that there is a desire to keep the site in community use. We have seen absolutely no progress by the town council to making it clear what they do want to do and it is with a mounting sense of frustration that we reluctantly decided to take this step to try to get them to tell us once and for all – are they going to buy the site or not?

“It is such a valuable asset to the town – once it is gone there will be nowhere else for its regular activities there to be held. The town hall is now a very popular entertainment venue and its three rooms simply cannot accommodate everything that an expanding town needs for its residents such as, for example, a gym or a recording studio for young people, which could be funded with the money from Tesco at St Clare’s for the young people of the town.”

Added Mrs Semple: “Friends of St Clare’s is urging everyone to vote in favour of the town council acquiring the site, including the 800 plus people who have already signed the individual petitions. Unlike in a general election or by-election, voters will not receive poll cards, nor will postal or proxy voting be allowed, but in all other respects the poll will be carried out by East Devon District Council’s returning officer, just as in an election, with voting slips to be filled in on the day to be announced.”

Mayor Peter Burrows accused the campaigners of jumping the gun.

He told The Herald: “I am saddened that this has been called so quickly when we are in the process of putting together a business plan to see whether it is a feasible proposition. You only have to remember the Willoughby House fiasco on a project that was not properly costed.”

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