Seaton referendum date announced

Town poll on the future of the St Clare’s adult education centre will cost around �1,000 to stage

Plans for a referendum to determine the future of a Seaton education centre have been condemned by councillors as a waste of money.

A public meeting last week gave the go ahead for the poll to decide whether the resort wants the St Clare’s complex retained for community use.

The vote will take place on Monday, March 26, in the town hall between 4pm and 9pm.

Electors will be asked: “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?”

The campaign for the referendum was led by The Friends of St Clare’s – a group formed by three ex-mayors of Seaton, Jim Knight, Barbara-Dearden Potter and Sandra Semple, to safeguard the centre.

Although the town council has agreed to buy the site form the county council campaigners are worried it will not meet the July deadline for finding the cash and submitting its business plan for the site.

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At last week’s public meeting organisers mustered the necessary minimum 10 signatures to force a referendum.

But afterwards a spokesman for the town council described the move as “premature” and said the poll would cost local people �1,000 to stage.

He said the council was on target to draw up its plans for the centre and submit them for discussion to the annual town meeting on April 24.

The statement continued: “Most of the people who were at the meeting spoke against the idea and expense of a referendum as the town council has not yet formulated its business plan to support the purchase of St Clare’s.

“However, the rules state that if only 10, or more, electors demand a referendum, then one must be held and so the minority held the day.

“A town referendum will now be organised by East Devon District Council and the cost will fall upon Seaton Town Council. There is a view that this money would be better spent of works at St Clare’s if the town council do buy the place but again this fell on stony ground as far as the signatories to the request for a referendum are concerned.

“It is also worth noting that the results of a poll are not binding upon the town council and so it does not have to take any notice of the outcome.

“All indications are that the town council will continue with its work to prepare a business case for the purchase and will then make a decision along business lines with the community interest also clearly in mind.“

Mayor Peter Burrows added: “The town council is firmly committed to preparing a business plan for St Clare’s and will make any decisions based on that. The town council must not be diverted from this task as it is the right way to ensure that any purchase of St Clare’s can be seen as a viable and sustainable way of making a positive, long-term contribution to our community.”

** Voters will not be issued with polling cards for the referendum and there will be no proxy voting or postal voting so people will need to turn up at the town hall in person.

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