Friday, 6 January 2012

Onto a hiding to nothing

THE people of Axminster were given their chance to comment on the future development of the town this week.

A public meeting was held for people to share their views on the new Local Plan for East Devon, which in effect is the planning blueprint for the district to the year 2026.

I know it sounds terribly boring but the contents of the draft plan which will soon be ratified by East Devon District Council will have great impact on the quality of life, especially those living in the main towns.

Consultation meetings are being held throughout the area with comments being required by the end of January.

The prepartion of the new development plan has not been a smooth journey for the district council, the original one being scrapped over administrative probems and the current plan doing the rounds is the product of the new district council elected last May and following months of work by the Local Plan Forum.

The Axminster public meeting on Wednesday was attended by about 60 residents, most of whom were strongly opposed to the level of housing development (about 1,200 new homes) included in the plan. This would see the population of the town nearly doubling in size to around 10,000.

The population of Axminster is around 5,800 so an attendance of 60 is hardly representative of the town.

The meeting was called by Axminster Town Council to be able to shape their own response to the Local Plan at next Monday’s monthly council meeting. They can do no more than give the public the opportunity to have their say but there’s little interest in local government these days.

As is usual at such gatherings, the town council took a bit of a kicking from one of two of the more vociferous council taxpayers. The council is on to a hiding-to-nothing on such matters; they don’t have the power to make the final decision but they get all the brickbats from unhappy townsfolk.

The vexed subjects of the north-south by-pass, deemed essential to solve Axminster’s traffic problems, and “mythical affordable housing” came in for a great deal of comment.

I thought deputy mayor Jeremy Walden did a good job in chairing a difficult meeting, adopting his usual honest and sympathetic manner.

And for me the star of the show was Millwey Rise resident Ian Hall who made an impassioned plea for the council to put the young people of Axminster first with regard to te provision of housing.

WITH the death of former publican and opera singer Craig Sullivan, another great character has departed this life.

Craig will be best remembered in this area as the former landlord of two of the locality’s most popular pubs - the Hunter’s Lodge Inn, near Axminster, and the White Hart at Colyford which he ran with wife Irene.

Regular customers at these pubs will also recall his propensity to burst into operatic arias at the drop of a hat.

Australian-born Craig had a beautifiul tenor voice and came to England, via the opera houses of Italy, to appear at Covent Garden.

Craig, 77, collapsed and died at one of his favourite pubs in Lyme Regis, where he lived, on New Year’s Eve where no doubt his stentorian tones would have been well exercised at midnight.

His funeral will be held at Lyme Regis Parish Church at 12 noon on Tuesday, January 17th.

Let’s welcome the New Year in a positive mood . . .

PRESSURE on editorial space and the smaller Christmas and New Year issues means that this column has to take a back seat over the festive period.

I presume that you all had the Christmas you wanted and celebrated the New Year in appropriate fashion.

There is much doom and gloom over the current financial climate nationally and those in business are viewing the coming 12 months with some trepidation.

So I think some positive thinking is required as we move into 2012. Let’s all believe that it is going to be a good year.

We are fortunate in this part of the world that we enjoy superb community spirit in the towns and villages in which we live.

The Weekender policy, much to the amusement of other local newspapers, concentrates on covering as many community events as possible. It doesn’t make life easy for my reporters, I assure you, but the readers love it.

It does, amaze us, however, just how much effort goes in to the numerous community events that make up the rich pattern of life in East Devon. Long may that continue in 2012.

Happy New Year to you all!

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