Council to decide on hall future
MEMBERS of East Devon District Council's cabinet were last night (Wednesday, October 3) considering formal bids for the take-over of a high-profile community site on Exmouth seafront.
A panel of district councillors was set to vote on which of three shortlisted options they would select as their preferred bidder.
As previously reported by the Echo, the district council put the site up for sale as part of the Exmouth Masterplan – a document outlining future regeneration in the town.
But there has been strong opposition with the Friends of Elizabeth Hall group leading the campaign to keep the hall for community use and prevent it being sold off to a developer. Last month the group presented a petition against the sale proposal, bearing more than 12,000 names, to the council.
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The group also submitted an informal tender to the district council and Exmouth town councillors unanimously backed the group's bid.
As the Echo went to press, it has not been confirmed which bids were being considered at the cabinet meeting.
At an extraordinary meeting of Exmouth Town Council earlier this week, councillors voted in favour of a motion to retain the hall as an asset for the town following a suggestion from Exmouth resident Ron Roberts.
"Should the Friends of Elizabeth Hall bid not be successful, then this town council may, after due deliberation, open a dialogue with East Devon District Council to assume management of the Elizabeth Hall through a partnership agreement with a local community organisation to administer the hall," read the motion.
Mr Roberts had asked the council to enter into negotiations with East Devon District Council with a view to taking over the management of the hall.However, councillors agreed that it was premature to pledge their support to the motion because it was not known whether the friends' bid was one under consideration or indeed whether it would ultimately be successful so amended the proposal's wording which was then carried.
In August Mr Roberts, who is vice chairman of the Exmouth Residents and Traders Association, unsuccessfully requested a meeting to debate and then vote on a motion asking the town council to assume management and administration of the Elizabeth Hall from the district council.
Following Mr Robert's fresh proposition at the extraordinary meeting, Councillor Eileen Wragg said that even if the friend's bid was one of those being considered she did not hold out much hope of it being successful.
"Over the years that I have been a district councillor there have been no attempts by the council to encourage the use of the hall, in fact the opposite is true," she said. "There has been a clear intention to sell the hall and no one should be under any illusions, whatever the pacifiers say.
"I applaud the effort of the friends' group and it's been a brave fight, but we have to wait for the outcome and I don't think there's cause to be optimistic."