Future of seafront: town will go to polls
PUBLISHED: 06:28 21 March 2016
The people of Exmouth are set to be able to make their voices heard about proposed redevelopment of the town’s seafront.
That is the message from campaigners after the town’s annual meeting voted in favour of holding a parish poll.
The poll would not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the development itself, but would ask if Exmouth Town Council should approach East Devon District Council (EDDC) – which is behind the plans – calling for further independent consultation.
At this week’s meeting, town councillors warned that a poll would cost £16,000 of taxpayers’ money and EDDC would not be bound by its result. However, campaigners said they still felt it was worth doing to show the strength of feeling in the town - arguing it would be harder for EDDC to ignore than simply a letter from the town council, which had been proposed as an alternative.
Malcolm Dodd, who tabled the motion for the poll, said: “I feel they will dismiss a letter. I think they can’t dismiss a lot of people - 24,000 electors in Exmouth - through an official poll.
“This could easily have been sorted out by councillors offering some sort of dialogue, but with no response from either the town council or EDDC, there has been no alternative but to promote a town poll.”
EDDC is proposing new buildings and leisure facilities between the old lifeboat station and the Maer.
The motion approved by the meeting calls for a parish poll to be held, asking the question: “Should Exmouth Town Council recommend to East Devon District Council that, before any further planning applications are approved with regard to the Queen’s Drive development area, that additional independent consultation should be carried out in addition to that required by the applicant and the local planning authority?”
The matter was approved by a majority show of hands at a packed and often heated meeting at Exmouth Community College’s Telfer Centre.
This was despite warnings by members that having to find £16,000 to pay for the poll from the town council’s budget would threaten extra roadside grass cutting, which it had agreed to pay for this year to make up for cutbacks by Devon County Council.
Councillor Brian Bailey said: “All you’re going to do is waste £16,000 of your money to achieve absolutely nothing.”
Speaking after the meeting, town clerk Lisa Bowman confirmed that she would be writing to EDDC’s chief executive and East Devon’s returning officer Mark Williams on Tuesday, March 15. She will say that a parish poll had been requested by electors and that EDDC would then be responsible for organising the poll.
An EDDC spokeswoman said that Mr Williams would assess the request for a parish poll when he received it - ‘in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions’.
The spokeswoman also said that EDDC was ‘saddened’ by the outcome of the meeting and added: “The district council has said on a number of occasions now that further consultation will take place by the developers when they have their proposals and this will happen this year.”
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