Turn court into community centre

Redundant building suitable, says Honiton resident.

Assuming the Church of England hierarchy will not sell the Mackarness Hall to the people of Honiton for a perfectly situated community centre, the town council must continue to look for a venue.

When over a year ago I suggested in the Midweek Herald there was an ideal, little used building only 200 yards from the designated site for the community centre, namely the magistrates’ court in Dowell Street, I was told the court could not be used for any other purpose and it was essential for a town the size of Honiton.

Now we are told that must be sacrificed under coalition cutbacks.

Having visited the “essential” court several times, that usually means a couple of hours on a Wednesday morning to hear magistrates listen to arguments about simple civil matters - criminal cases have long since been moved to Exeter -I felt the main court was big enough to be converted to a hall for plays or even pantomimes.

A smaller, second hall could be used as a recreation area for youngsters and the court has a small kitchen and a couple of offices.

I’m sure the town council knows who actually owns the simple but clean building. Have any councillors ever gone through the front door and looked carefully at its potential?

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I’m sure they won’t need to face the body search I had on my last visit after telling the gentleman on the door I was a ratepayer “just looking in”. He must have felt I looked a 72 years-old potential terrorist.

Clearly, he did his job as ordered. Perhaps, if he is made redundant when the court closes, he could be recruited for a new community centre. If he cannot be persuaded, there’s another man who has done a grand job in Honiton for many years and is now facing forced retirement - PC Ian Atyeo.

When the town council was told recently our neighbourhood beat manager may have to go after 30 years as a serving officer, several councillors spoke with anger about this particular cutback from Westminster.

The mayor, Councillor Peter Fleming, said: “This is a great loss. When talking about the police in Honiton, Ian is the man you think of.”

Councillor Peter Halse added: “To lose Ian would be a disaster.”

Maybe if the magistrates’ court becomes the community centre and Ian offers to work on the entrance and turn away troublemakers there may be double success.

But why do I feel the court building will be left to decay and become a nightime ‘home’ for vandals and hooligans or perhaps the bulldozers could turn up in Dowell street and do the same as they did in the nearby public toilets when they were considered too expensive to keep and maintain?

Tony smith

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