Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Best council debate so far

THE debate on the granting of a new lease on the lucrative Monmoth Beach car park was one of the best I have heard in the Lyme Regis council chamber since the election of a new town council last May.

Although a one-sided debate, there was plenty of reasoned, well thought-through arguments with few if any snide remarks.

Why is this such an important matter? Because the revenue from the Monmouth Beach car park exceeds £250,000 a year, that’s more than twice the amount the town council gets from our council tax payments.

I have a vested interest in this park as I was mayor when the original lease was granted to West Dorset District Council in the mid-1980s. The two authorities had been arguing for ten years over the ownership of various properties and I was of the opinion it was time the disagreements stopped so that we could get on with running the town.

It was not a universally popular decision and I well remember Stan Williams accusing me of “signing away my birth right” when I put my name to the document.

A subsequent ten-year lease on the car park expires at the end of this month and the town council had given WDDC notice that they intended to take back the car park.

Several months of discussion took place before a recommendation to last week’s Strategy and Policy Commitee to offer a new three-year lease with WDDC being told that the town council would definitely be taking back the park in 2015.

One influencing factor was that the town council would have to pay a penalty of £93,000 to the district council under the Landlord and Tenant Act, a sum which would be hard to find in the current financial climate.

The district also intimated that they might have to close the TIC and the public toilets at The Cobb if they lost valuable revenue from the car park.

Strategy and Policy Committee chairman Mark Gage, who led the delicate negotiations with the district council, with some skill I am told, started the debate with a clear and concise resume of the points in question. 

He concluded that the granting of a three-year lease would give the town council time to work with WDDC on how best the services under threat could be protected in the future.
The only real dissenting voice came from former mayor Michael Ellis.

I thought she put up a sound argument for taking back the car park now and paying the penalty, maintaining that the council would still come out of it with a profit and would get the full benefit of the £250,000 in takings in the two succesive years.

Michaela’s argument was so strong that I wondered whether I had jumped the gun in last week’s column by coming down firmly in favour of the new three year deal.

Whilst she was pretty well a lone voice in this view, it was compelling stuff but I ended up with the majority view that the district now know they will be giving up the park in 2015 and both authorities have three years to solve the problem of protecting the TIC and other services.

Plenty of ‘pomp and ceremony’ for visit by the Navy

CONFIRMATION this week that a front line Royal Navy ship will be visiting Lyme Regis over the weekend of May 18th to May 20th.

For security reasons, it is not possible to release the name of the ship or the exact timing of the visit but the Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman, has received confirmation that the ship will definitely be paying an official visit to Lyme.

With advice from Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset, Minnie Churchill, and her partner Simon Bird, Sally has worked hard in getting a prestigious Royal Navy vessel to visit the town to kick-start Lyme’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

When I was a young reporter such visits were a regularly occurence with the mayor and other civic dignatories always invited on board for a lavish reception.

If my memory serves me right, sea conditions for one such visit were so rough that they even considered off-loading the civic party by breeches buoy but I think they decided to cross the bay to Weymouth where a bus was provided to get the civic guests back to Lyme.

I think this was during the term of office of the late Victor Homyer, a fisherman who served in the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy ship will be visiting Lyme during the same weekend as the Silversea cruise ship which will see 100 or more Americans coming ashore for a 12-hour visit to Lyme.

The Mayor is describing the weekend as “a really special” occasion for Lyme and promises that there will be plenty of “pomp and ceremony” around the town.

Prompt response to Royal Mail complaints

MY comments last week about the declining standard in our postal service struck a cord with many of our readers. We received a number of letters carrying complaints, mainly about late delivery.

I also sent a letter to the manager of the Royal Mail sorting in office in Bridport as it appeared to me that the service has not been so efficient since the sorting office at the Lyme Regis Post Office was closed last year and the staff transferred to Bridport.

I received a prompt, courteous and efficient reply from the Bridport Delivery office seeking further information and promising to look into my complaints.

I also understand that one of two of the local potsman have got the hump over my comments. I would like to make it clear that our own local potsman are polite and efficient; my main grouse is not the occasional wrongly delivered letter to our office but the fact that an increasing number of letters sent from this office never seem to arrive, even though they are addressed correctly.

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