Decision was uninformed’

THE Town Hall is pressing to reverse an uninformed decision that saw a trial for a caf� in the Manor Gardens refused.

THE Town Hall is pressing to reverse an 'uninformed' decision that saw a trial for a caf� in the Manor Gardens refused.

Last month, Exmouth's Trish and Rob McOwan saw their idea for 'The Garden Caf�', a high-quality catering kiosk next to the Tourist Information Centre, fall through, writes David Beasley.

They had accepted a Town Hall proposal for a 28-day trial - and depending on public feedback, the idea would either go out to tender or be scrapped.

But despite backing from the Town Council, the Town Manager, East Devon's Senior Estates Surveyor and the head of Street Scene, charged with overseeing the gardens, the idea was not taken up.

But town councillors at the general purposes and regeneration committee on Monday complained that the decision was taken by East Devon's Asset Management Forum.

This, they said, had no Exmouth members and was chaired by a Honiton councillor, Peter Halse - and rejected the argument a caf� would spoil an area of 'tranquillity'.

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Cllr Eileen Wragg said: "Clearly the decision by the portfolio holder of economy was an uninformed one.

"Again a member from Honiton has made a decision about what is happening and what is not happening in Exmouth.

"Innovation and business is being stifled ...decisions are made without consulting the town council and without consulting with the town management."

She ridiculed one of the reasons for the refusal - that it would spoil the tranquillity of the gardens - by pointing out that the Exmouth Festival took place there every year and Connaught Gardens in Sidmouth had the Clock Tower Caf�

Town Clerk John Wokersien said: "We all feel a sense of frustration. This seems to be a fairly minor issue.

"If we can't sort something as simple as this out, how can we sort out more significant regeneration schemes?

"It is important for all of us we sort these things out sensibly. In this situation, local people know best."

Town manager Tony Collins said: "Clearly Cllr Halse does have the power to overturn this decision.

"But East Devon seems to be embedded in a mire of bureaucracy."

Cllr Maddie Chapman said they should go back to East Devon, while Cllr Mark Williamson proposed pressing East Devon to reconsider: "It seems to me that the Asset Management Forum has said that, in principle, there can be no catering facility."

He said it was "a wonderful opportunity" for a caf�, in keeping with its surroundings.

The one dissenting voice was May Hardy who said that residents she had spoken to did not want a caf�.