Budleigh’s Upper Station Road car park could remain free for public use – if district bosses lower their demands and accept a 1,200 per cent increase in the rent paid.

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The town council is willing to dig deep into its pockets and increase the rent paid to East Devon District Council (EDDC) from £500 a year to £6,500, which would be linked with inflation.

Mayor Courtney Richards said although the increase was less than the £35,000 demanded by EDDC, it was ‘fair’.

It would mean that the town council’s share of council tax would not increase next year; there has been no increase in the ‘precept’ for three years.

The 109-space car park was gifted to Budleigh by Lord Clinton in 1947 before being transferred to EDDC in the early 1970s.

So far, legal safeguards or covenants have insured it remains free-to-use, and free from ‘commercial’ activity.

But financial pressures have led EDDC to call for the town council to pay a ‘commercial rent’.

The town council currently spends £1,500 on annual maintenance and £3,500 in rates on top of the £500 rent.

This week they made an offer to EDDC, backed by town councillors, and pointed out that the town council was a ‘net contributor’ to the district.

Councillor Richards said at the town council meeting on Monday: “Neither of us, the town council or East Devon, wants get involved in litigation.

“If we increase rent from £500 to £6,500, they would still get an income of £10,000 which would be linked to CPI (inflation).

“I would like to think that they would take that and be happy; it would show that we are serious and it still amounts to £2.50 paid a year by every man, woman and child in Budleigh.”

In its offer to EDDC, the council said that the town ‘helped itself’ and this year had spent £7,000 on toilets, £10,000 on the seafront shelter, £6,000 on railings and £1,600 on wreath holders.

He told the Journal: “Next year we are shelling out £15,000 for a handyman for work that, by rights, East Devon or Devon county should be paying for.

“We are a net contributor and probably save them £30,000 a year.

“We have a sufficient surplus to cover this without having to increase the precept.”

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