Covenants were to protect land

PUBLISHED: 11:12 30 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:34 10 June 2010

May I add my concerns to those expressed by former mayor Cllr Eileen Wragg (lead article, Journal, August 7) about EDDC s attempts to lift the covenants placed on the seafront land by Lord Clinton when he sold it to Exmouth Urban District Council in 1920.

May I add my concerns to those expressed by former mayor Cllr Eileen Wragg (lead article, Journal, August 7) about EDDC's attempts to lift the covenants placed on the seafront land by Lord Clinton when he sold it to Exmouth Urban District Council in 1920. In the Journal of August 14, you carried a letter from Mrs Loman also alerting us to the dangers ahead should the covenants be lifted.I also feel that this move is unacceptable. If Lord Clinton stated in a covenant that he sold the land on the condition it would be retained as public land then that condition should be respected.Councils should act honourably and uphold past agreements, even if these have been entered into by former councils. People need to have confidence that a council will be bound by its word and that any commitment will be upheld not only now but also in the future, even if the present council has been replaced by a new local authority.Of course, there may be situations where it is necessary to ask for an "easement" because something arises which could not have been foreseen. However, this should not involve the wholesale lifting of the covenant but merely a request for a variation to resolve the single issue. The Elizabeth Hall might be seen as case for variation if it is felt that it is no longer viable. Even then, if funds were not available to build a new public building, consideration should have been given to simply demolishing the hall and creating a further open space for the public to use. This would at least have been in keeping with Lord Clinton's wishes, whereas sale and subsequent commercial development plainly is not!I am also disappointed that Clinton Devon Estates, as custodian's of Lord Clinton's land, are prepared to countenance the lifting of his covenant. Any approach should be refused by them unless it is clear that the proposals will improve the land in a way that would have long term benefits for the people of Exmouth. As an example, a much needed launching place for small craft might be permissible. Every request for a variation of the covenants should be dealt with independently on its merits and not by releasing the complete tract of land into the hands of those who might wish to "develop" it.I hope both parties, EDDC and Clinton Devon Estates will reconsider their positions. Persuading a land tribunal to lift these restrictions does not absolve councillors from the moral responsibility of abiding by the agreements reached by their predecessors.If councillors and others do not stand up for what is right, our council's reputation will be diminished and another valuable part of our heritage will be lost for ever.Geoff Morris,9 Trinfield Avenue,Exmouth.

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