Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Oh, how we miss debate!

I attended last week’s council meeting in Lyme not because it was first to be held under the spectre of their new code of conduct but because Francesca was on holiday.

The agenda didn’t look very interesting, they rarely do these days, but there had been some exchanges on Facebook which indicated there might be a few fireworks. In the end, no more than damp squibs. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the council so contrite.

Having agreed their new voluntary code of conduct at a previous meeting, good behaviour was certainly the order of the day.

I had commissioned former Fleet Street scribe Geoff Baker, probably the only person in Lyme who would challenge me for being the most unpopular man in the Guildhall, to write a sketch-type piece for this week’s View, similar in style to the vastly entertaining parliamentary sketch columns in the nationals.

Only eight out of 13 councillors (numbers are down by one due to Daryl Turner’s resignation) were present which begs the question, as an election approaches, whether Lyme actually needs 14 people to run the town efficiently.

Most councillors spent much of the 90 minutes in open council with their heads bowed and there was a distinct lack of debate. Ah debate. How we miss that.

Even the one subject I thought would spark a tasty quote or two - the dogs on the beach policy - was a disappointment.  Michaela Ellis opposed a review of the policy but no one defended the recommendation, not even Mark Gage who waxed so eloquently about canines being demonised in Lyme at a previous meeting.

I don’t think we should read too much into this. With only eight present, Mark’s majority had dissipated, even if only for one meeting, and I am sure that the argument over whether dogs should be allowed on Lyme’s beaches without a lead will surface again.

But Michaela seemed quite pleased. It was the first time she had managed to win a crucial vote for a couple of years!

BEFORE a brick is laid Lyme Regis town councillors are being asked by West Dorset to come up with suitable names for the three streets that will form the 46-home development planned for the Woodberry Down site.

Through their weekly briefing they were asked to come up with some suitable names. Quick to reply was Councillor Rikey Austin who suggested names linked to the town’s literary heritage such as Chesterton, Longfellow, Austin (sic), Tolkien, Blake, Hollis and Fowles.

I assume that will be Austen as in Jane Austen, spelt with an e and not with an i, as printed in the agenda report for this week’s Town Mangement Committee meeting when the matter will be considered.

Although many people in Lyme would be quite happy for a road to be named after an Austin with an i - that, of course, would be Barbara Austin MBE, six times mayor of this town who died last year.

The precedent, of course, has already been set with Applebee Close and Henry’s Way, named after two former mayors of this town - Dennis Applebee and the incomparable Henry Broom.

The minutes also record that Councillor Austin (with an i not an e) has recently discovered that Shakespeare’s  “The Tempest” is based on George Somers’ ship, “The Sea Venture” wrecking off Bermuda (a fact long known by those of us who have lived in Lyme all our lives) and has come up with a number of associated names - Prospero, Miranda, Caliban, Bermuda and Sea Venture. Councillor Lucy Campbell favoured links to fossils and put forward Ammonite Avenue and Lias Place.

Two dramatic days in the life of Lyme…

LYME’S main street remains as buoyant as ever with new names appearing above the shops regularly.

I was prompted to think about the changing face of our main street when I saw a photo  on the fascinating Lyme Nostagia site on Facebook, posted by Lyme boy Adam Austin, son of former mayor Barbara Austin, of the runaway lorry incident in Broad Street in 1960. 

It was the first time I had seen that dramatic picture for many years. I was 12 at the time and was shopping for my grandmother, who lived in Silver Street,  with one of my boyhood friends, Rikey Larcombe, who later moved to the Bournemouth area, cousin of Howard, Colin and Brian.

It was a very traumatic experience.  I distinctly remember hearing the commotion and, as we turned to look up the street, we could see PC Bill Habgood, throw his helmet to the ground and run down in front of the runwaway furniture lorry transporting Cub Scouts which crashed into The Shambles after colliding with several vehicles on the way down.

It was very frigtening and there were many casualties. We ran down the street and up the alley to the Masonic Hall to get out of the way.

The photo of the mayhen afterwards, which appeared on Facebook, was taken by the the late Alderman Douglas Fortnam from the top floor of the council offices and appeared in the national press the following day  and also won a photographic award. I Googled the pic and found there was just one copy available for purchase on eBay which I acquired from an American agency for $16. 

Several years later one of the first big stories I covered as a young reporter was the runaway lorry which crashed into the London Inn in 1965, another highlytraumatic event.

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