What price Britain’s heritage (part 2) ?

31 May

Not only natural forces are changing East Devon’s coastline. The unspoilt seafronts, and individual character of its seaside resorts, which attract tourists and locals alike, are fast being eroded.  One case in point is at Budleigh Salterton (see SIN post for 28 May). There’s another at Exmouth, where  10.000 signatures to save Elizabeth Hall have been ignored. Today’s letter, copied below,  to the Friends of Elizabeth Hall, tells the story:

 

Dear Friends

 

 

The Premier Inn Planning Application goes before the EDDC’s Development Management Committee on Tuesday the 11th of June at 10am, at the Knowle in Sidmouth.

 

 

This will be our last chance to save the Elizabeth Hall, so please tell all of your family, friends and neighbours, as it’s vitally important for us to get as many people as possible to attend and put forward their objections.

 

 

We have already prepared 23 separate material objections which will need to be put forward by volunteers who are willing to stand up and speak for a maximum of 3 minutes. The objections range from the size of the building to the lack of provision for bicycles, so please let us know if you would be willing to participate, as this will help us to cover every objection and argue how each one contravenes the EDDC’s own planning policies.

 

 

By approaching it in this way, we hope to give enough weight and credibility to each objection before the timer runs out, so that the DMC has no choice but to take them into account during their considerations. We know we will be up against those who will be speaking in support of the application, so our task is to make our objections as strong and effective as possible and our arguments far more convincing than theirs.

 

 

It’s been just over a year since the EDDC announced it was putting the Elizabeth Hall up for sale and we have achieved a remarkable amount during that time. We raised a petition of 12,429 names, had 300 supporters attend the Musical March, wrote over 130 letters to the Journal, made an untold number of contributions to the Exmouth Vision Website and other Media and sent hundreds of emails and letters to local & district councillors, MP’s, the Communities secretaries, the Prime Minister, even Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II.

 

 

We attended consultations and exhibitions, made numerous representations at local and district council meetings and uncovered the true costs to the local taxpayers of the lifting of the Seafront Covenants. We challenged the deliberately ambiguous language and the ‘spin’ that was put on the Masterplan consultation results and supported other East Devon Campaigns, such as the Fight for Feniton’s Future and, ‘The Stroll to the Knowle’, which saw almost 4,000 people protesting against the EDDC. We compiled a 38 page bid tender which raised £280,000 in local support and was impressive enough to gain the backing of the Exmouth Town Council and get through to the final stage of the EDDC’s bid interviews. We have given TV and radio interviews, held public meetings and events and helped raise money for other local charitable causes.

 

 

After the announcement in October last year that the Premier Inn had won the bid, we discovered there was a £100 million pound partner-ship deal between the EDDC’s estate agents, Jones Lang LaSalle, and the bid winners Whitbreads, a blatent commercial conflict of interest which the EDDC has refused to even acknowledge or address. More than 80 of us submitted objections to the proposed application, only to see them ignored and the amendments not worth the paper they were written on. We got the EDDC to finally admit the monies from the sale would not be ring-fenced for the benefit of the community of Exmouth, nor see a promised replacement for the loss of our community facilites. Even the section 106 community contribution of £186,000, is a mere 75% of the promised £250,000 and represents yet another loss to the local taxpayer of £64,000.

 

We made formal complaints to the EDDC which were rejected without adequate explanation or a promise to improve their processes. We had Freedom of Information requests unlawfully refused, which led the Information Commissioners Office to start monitoring the EDDC procedures. We managed to obtain an investigation into the sale by the Local Government Ombudsman, which results are due within the next two weeks. And last, but by no means least, we have seen the launch of a police investigation into the planning processes at the EDDC after the forced resignation of Conservative Councillor for Feniton, Graham Brown, amid allegations that EDDC planning permission can be bought “for a price” at a measly £20,000 a pop.

 

 

None of this would have been possible without all of your hard work, support and encouragement over the past year and for your tenacity and determination to continue with the campaign in the face of impossible and unfairly stacked odds. Without you, the EDDC would not have been placed under ever-increasing scrutiny from higher authorities or seen it’s wrong-doers brought to book.

 

 

We can never really thank or repay you enough for the boundless energy and time you have given to this campaign and since everything we have worked towards rests on the outcome of the DMC meeting, we need your support this one last time.

 

 

Please help us to make this one last stand in the fight to save The Elizabeth Hall and to go out with a flourish and give it the impetus to deliver a potentially knockout punch.

 

 

If you are happy to deliver one of the objections, or if you need help travelling up to the meeting to deliver your own, please let us know as soon as possible by RSVP at this address or by giving myself or Jilly a ring on 01395 276583 or 01395 227747.

 

 

We look forward to hearing from you,

 

 

Warmest regards,
Nicky King – FoEH Supporters Co-ordinator.

 

 

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