Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Stand by for bad news on the hospital
I STARTED my journalistic career in Honiton in a dingy room above Arthur Dimond’s shop in the High Street. That was 50 years ago this summer.
Even in those far-off days when reporters attended virtually every local event, it was clear that Honiton was in desperate need of a community hall.
The Mackarness Hall, at the side of St Paul’s Church and opposite the office, was the only real meeting place in the centre of town in those days. And it continued that way until fairly recently when the magnificent Beehive Centre opened its doors amid much controversy.
I use the word “magnificent” somewhat gingerly because the building of the centre has been the cause of much falling out in the town.
I made a long-overdue visit to the Beehive last week after receiving an invitation from the group of volunteers who are working so hard to make the centre a success, led by former Honiton mayor Vernon Whitlock, who has been fighting for such a facility for 30 years.
The first thing that impressed me was the enthusiasm of the volunteers. It’s turned out to be pretty much of a full-time job since the doors first opened in March and there’s been no let-up since. I was even more impressed when I was given a tour of the building, which also houses offices for Honiton Town Council. There are many other towns in Pulman’s Country who would give their eye-teeth for such a quality facility.
I was surprised that when a local poll was held to give the people of Honiton the chance to vote on whether they wanted the town council to proceed with the community centre project, the majority said “no”. However, there was only a 13 per cent turn- out, hardly representative.
I hear another poll might be in the offing over the future governance of the centre.
It’s a very long time since I covered Honiton Town Council and I’m clearly not qualified to comment on the conflicting views. But what I do know is this: Honiton has a brilliant facility and it is clear by the programme of events that it is being well used by the community.
Becoming a charity seems an eminently sensible idea to me and I hope that it won’t be long before those responsible for running the facility, town councillors and volunteers, can resolve their differences and draw a line under the animosity that clearly exists.
The Beehive is a great asset to Honiton.
I AM writing this column on Monday afternoon, a few hours before there is going to be a momentous announcement over the future of Axminster Hospital. It will not be good news.
This is such an important issue that we have decided to delay the printing of our Axminster edition so we can report on the announcement due to be made at Axminster Town Council this evening (Monday).
It looks like Axminster has lost the fight to retain NHS funded in-patient beds, the only community hospital in East Devon to do so.
Over the years Axminster Hospital League of Friends have pumped millions into the hospital and it looks as though if the town is to keep its in-patient beds the League will have to dig deep once again. They have the financial resources but without their backing the beds will almost certainly go.
Local doctors fear if the beds are closed it is unlikely they will ever be restored. If that is the case, what will happen to hospital long term?
Although the NHS will never admit to it, it seems that closure is a very real possibility in the future. The NHS says there are no plans to close Axminster; not now but what about in three years?