Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Halls kerfuffle was down to me!

THERE has been much talk in the town in recent weeks since this newspaper exclusively revealed plans for the possible redevelopment of the Woodmead Halls.

The story about how Lyme Regis Development Trust had drawn up plans for the possible moving of the county library and LymeNet to the Woodmead Halls site with the provision of a third hall and cafeteria has caused quite a stir and a good deal of comment from our readers.

It also upset a few councillors who claimed they knew nothing about the proposal, despite the fact that the council owned the land on which the extension, which would house the library, LymeNet, new hall and cafeteria, would be built in a £1 million-plus development. I have to put my hand up and say that was my fault. 

As acting secretary for the Woodmead Halls Management Committee I was privy to original discussions about the idea and had agreed with the development trust to release details about their proposals in the View from Lyme Regis on an agreed date.

However, I let my journalistic competitiveness get the better of me and published the story a week earlier than intended.

I informed town clerk Mike Lewis that I was intending to run the story and wanted to make sure all councillors had been informed, although I knew some had already been consulted on a private basis.

Emails were sent round to all councillors the day before the story was due to break but not all of them had seen them before the View hit the streets.

It’s difficult sometimes balancing my responsibility as an editor and playing an active role in community affairs and I have to admit that I used the information gained under trust to the advantage of this newspaper.

I usually manage to handle such situations satisfactorily but on this occasion I clearly did not.

Needless to say, some councillors and in particular the development trust officers were not best pleased that I went public with the story a week before intended.

I decided the only course of action was to stand down from the Woodmead Halls committee after a number of years so that my position was not compromised in the future. That decision itself caused a bit of a kerfuffle elsewhere, but that’s another story.

The plan has been further muddied by conflicting opinions over the future of the Lyme library, which survived the county cuts last year after a determined and well organised battle.

Those who were closest to the library situation are adamant that they believe the library could come under threat again in 2014. 

The county council deny this but have confirmed they are in talks with the development trust about a number of options, one of them being the possibility of relocating the library to the Woodmead Halls.

We have already published a few letters expressing concern about the library moving to a new location and a number of questions have been posed about the plans to develop the Woodmead Halls.

So I decided I would ask the development trust to answer some of these questions to set the record straight.

Consultant David Gale and trust chairman Wendy Davies responded immediately and their answers appear on page one and three of this week’s issue.

They make the point strongly that the plans are only an idea at this stage and will be the subject of a good deal more consultation before it becomes a firm community project.

They are also keen to stress that the possibility of the library and LymeNet moving to the Woodmead Halls should not be looked upon as a “tagged-on” extension to the halls but as an “integrated multi-use community centre to explore the sustainability of LymeNet and the library whilst potentially achieving the aspirations of the halls management committee”.

The Woodmead Halls committee, led by former councillor Stan Williams, has done a wonderful job over the years, turning it into one of the most well cared for community halls in Dorset and they have already got plans for their own modest extension to improve availability, now on the backburner whilst the wider scheme is discussed.

However, it has always looked like a shed on a car park and the designs that I have seen would certainly improve its image.

But a huge amount of voluntary work has gone into the Woodmead Halls over the last ten to 12 years and it is essential that in whatever development plans reach fruition the halls management committee retain control of the facility they have worked so hard to create.

I am sure the development trust recognise this and would want it no other way.


IT was great to see the Lyme Regis Junior Band out in front of the Remembrance Day Parade on Sunday. They have been sorely missed over the past couple of years.

With numbers dwindling, the band, founded in 1980, nearly went out of existence. It would have been easy to have let that happen but leaders Julia Durrant and Joy Fowler had other ideas.

Julia, the daughter of the late Malcolm  Street, a town bandman and one of the founders behind the junior band, was an original member and has been connected with the group throughout.

With Joy and Lynn Wellman, assisted by tutor Dominic Kirtley, they have done a brilliantly in keeping the band together, retraining young musicians and kitting them out in smart new purple jackets.

Locals in the crowd on Sunday afternoon cheered and clapped them down Broad Street.  
It was the first time most of the band had marched and played at the same time (not an easy task for youngsters who are still learning to play their instruments) and they did marvellously well. 

It was obvious from the smiles on their faces when they were finally dismissed after playing the National Anthem at the end of the parade that they were really relieved. They should also be very proud.

We all love a parade in Lyme and having the Junior Band back out front will add greatly to town’s civic and community occasions.

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