Saturday, June 30, 2012
We attended the ‘Friends of Elizabeth Hall’ meeting on Thursday, June. 14
In spite of atrocious weather about 140 people turned up.
A convincing case for preserving the hall for public use, as well as aesthetic and historic reasons, was made. With the exception of Councillor Wragg, elected representatives were far less persuasive and certainly non-supportive.
They seemingly have in mind selling the plot to a highest bidder and would champion development of seafront accommodation suitable to the wealthy, rather than Exmouth’s needy.
We have to ask ourselves who these people are.
Since craving votes, they seem very prepared to ride roughshod over the very people who elected them.
This country has seen empowered vandals throughout its history but Henry VIII (abbeys) and Oliver Cromwell (castles) have nothing over our post-war planners.
Even locally, we only have to see pictures of the old Victorian railway station to realise they lack both imagination and feeling. Ask Prince Charles what he thinks!
I hardly know who our councillors are but one, who up to then had sat incognito, was challenged to confirm the spending of some £50,000 worth of legal costs to eliminate covenants, ie binding agreements relating to Elizabeth Hall.
Put on the spot he confirmed that excess but was decidedly wobbly in its defence and just as transparent about what he stood for.
Another wanted all there to know he was deputy of this and chairman of that.
I believe we have too many tiers of costly governance from Brussels; through London; Devon County; the EDDC and finally down to Exmouth town.
It’s not so long ago that those elevated at the EDDC became decidedly nervous regarding a threat to dilute their powers with the aim of reducing duplication within these various bodies.
At that time, we were treated to a series of posted flyers seeking support from the people allowing them to preserve their exalted jobs and retain the status quo.
If my memory serves me correctly, that particular exercise cost us taxpayers a considerable six-figure sum.
Certainly our money would have been better spent on maintaining, rather than neglecting, Elizabeth Hall as well as other important necessities.
Politicians are notoriously adept at self-preservation. In these times of austerity the only institution yet to cut back meaningfully is Parliament itself, and with all its excesses.
At the end of the meeting our mayor summarised that all the attendees were calling for was a larger public hall. Apparently impervious to all that had been said, he even suggested that the 140 or so attending hardly represented a substantial Exmouth opposition. He was widely off the mark and shouted down.
According to the internet, the population of the Exmouth ‘area’ in 2006 was 46,296 with a prediction of a 0.8 per cent decrease by 2021. In 2006 those aged from 0 to 19 numbered 10,306 with 6,365 being over 75.
Elsewhere a figure given for the area in 2009 is 47,950. By the date of the meeting 9,500 people had signed a petition to oppose the council’s apparent intentions.
To date this has risen to more than 10,000 and is still increasing.
If we assume the current population count, in round terms, to be 48,000 then those currently and actively opposed so far represent 21 per cent of the total population.
This is a significant proportion in itself but the larger picture is that when the numbers of children; elderly; infirm and those living outside the town boundaries are discounted, the real opposition from the townspeople will be much higher.
Those ambitious to be elected for future terms should take note.
PS: I could not totally agree with one speaker who had little regard for the re-development of the Strand. I happen to believe it to be a big improvement evidenced by the number of people who enjoy relaxing within it.
Certainly the war memorial and surrounding buildings are more enhanced.