Why I voted “no”
As the only member of East Devon District Council’s development management committee who voted against The Strand Pavilion, I feel I ought to explain my reasons. Actually, your correspondent, Janet Knights, (letter, March 17) has summed up my views up perfectly.
1. I find it difficult to justify spending �400,000 of public money on yet another cafe in the town centre. In the retail survey that councillors carried out last summer, I cannot find any respondent who asked for more cafes.
2. It is argued that a cafe/restaurant is the only source of revenue for the building’s upkeep and general Strand maintenance. But the recent history of the town centre shows that cafes and restaurants can fail like any other business.
3. The proposal for a building in the new Strand was included in the public consultation exercise.
I remember writing a Post-it on this proposal in the consultation tent. But, as an elected member, I cannot recall ever being consulted over its use as a cafe.
As someone who drafted the revised constitution for the town’s regeneration and general purposes committee to ensure that all regeneration proposals, from whatever source, came to elected town representatives for evaluation, I am disappointed that the use of this building was not formally reported to R and G P, where it could have been discussed.
4. Back to Janet Knights’ letter. Yes, as I said at the meeting, I would much rather this building showcase the brilliant work of local craftspeople, like the mill at Bovey Tracey and our own Otterton Mill.
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Another possibility is the one aired by another recent correspondent in that tourist information centre should have a presence in The Strand, perhaps alongside other uses, such as those described above, with its current building franchised as a tearoom. Exmothians are imaginative. Let those ideas bloom.
5. I am sorry to disappoint the many objectors who emailed me before last week’s meeting, but I have to say that I do like the building. Not its use. Let’s make sure that this building serves the town centre well, including the cafes and restaurants that are so important to residents and visitors alike.
Mark Williams (Councillor)
Long Lane House,
1c Cranford Avenue, Exmouth.