With East Devon District Council naming Premier Inn as its preferred bidder for the Elizabeth Hall site, Exmouth Town Council is considering its next move.

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Town councillors had resolved to support Friends of Elizabeth Hall’s bid during the bidding process, and last week resolved that, in the event the Friends were unsuccessful, the council could approach EDDC to try and take over the hall’s management, following a plan suggested by former councillor Ron Roberts.

However, this could now be unlikely after Exmouth mayor John Humphreys, of the town council’s majority Conservative group, said he was in favour of the Premier Inn plan.

Councillor Humphreys said: “A Premier Inn would be a great asset to the town. It would provide year round employment with up to 50 jobs and 60 much-needed additional bed spaces for tourists.

“When all the various bids were examined by East Devon councillors, their bid received unanimous and cross party support.

“The design brief should mean we have an attractive building on the seafront with a ground-floor café/bar/restaurant and conference rooms and meeting rooms available for hire.

“Additional facilities, additional bed spaces, additional jobs. It’s good news for Exmouth.”

Despite the mayor’s backing for Premier Inn, Councillor Steve Gazzard, leader of the town hall Lib Dems, said his party would be fighting on to try and save the hall.

He said: “We’re bitterly disappointed with the outcome of EDDC’s decision. It upsets me that yet again they have put finances before the community, and I’m concerned that from the very little I’ve seen about the Premier Inn bid, I can’t see anything for the benefit of the community.

“The Friends of Elizabeth Hall have put so much effort into this campaign and their presentation. It’s just a pity that unfortunately EDDC, for whatever reason – well, we know what the reason is, money - have decided not to listen to what the people are saying.

“I don’t think the fight is over. We’ll be looking at all the options to see how we can progress.”

The future of Elizabeth Hall will be discussed at the town council’s meeting at the Town Hall, tonight at 7pm.

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