Wednesday, 29 October 2014

After all, we are all citizens of Lyme

ONE of the unfortunate fall-outs from the rumpus in Lyme Regis over the council’s ambivalence towards skateboarding and cycling in public areas has been the backlash of insults aimed at “incomers”. 

It was a reference to those members on the town council who voted in favour, when agreeing new local bylaws, to allow  skateboarding and cycling along Marine Parade and other public spaces, including the cemetery, the latter causing an absolute furore on the social networking websites.

One angry Facebook contributor even went as far to call them “grockles”,  a less than complimentary term for visitors.

The councillors who incurred the wrath of so many were the usual suspects - Mark Gage, Lucy Campbell, Terry O’Grady,  Chris Clipson, Rikey Austin and Lorna Jenkin.  It is true that, in the complete sense of the word, they are incomers, but some have lived in the town for many years, especially Lucy and Lorna.

Those who opposed it were councillors with stronger local ties, including Lyme-born Stan Williams, and Cheryl Reynolds.

We don’t want to get into that old chestnut about how long you have to live in Lyme to become a “local” but it is often said that if you kick one Lyme Regian or Lymite, or whatever anyone born in the town is called, we all limp. It’s the same in all small towns.

After launching the View From Lyme Regis, the town’s most successful paper ever, I spent five or more years attending virtually every event in town. Very often the only other familiar face their was Ken Gollop, another Lyme-boy, and we would often play “spot the local”. 

I rarely attend meetings in Lyme anymore; that pleasant duty has been passed to my daughter, Francesca, who today is named at the new View From Lyme Regis editor, a job she has been doing for several months. 

But don’t get too excited, I am not releasing the reins completely and will stay as group editor as well as managing the company.

The fact is that without “incomers” Lyme would be a much different, perhaps less vibrant,  town. I often hear the complaint: “They come here and want to change the town.” That’s rarely the case.

The most successful town councils down the years have been those where there is a good balance of locally-born members and those who have moved to Lyme. Perhaps that split has been too one sided in recent years. 

My fellow columnist Chris Boothroyd, himself an “incomer”, has waxed lyrical about the volunteers who contribute so much to the life of Lyme. 

The vast majority of these are those who have moved or retired to the town and have given freely of their expertise. Lyme has benefited greatly from this in recent years.

Among them I would include Chris, of course, who did so much to see the Jubilee Pavilion through to completion; Dennis Yell, who is leading the Community Land Trust;  David Gale, who supervises the property arm of Lyme Regis Development Trust;  Alan and Lynn Vian, whose contribution to the community life of Lyme Regis would fill every column in this newspaper; and Dave Edwards, a driving force at the Marine Theatre and Regatta and Carnival stalwart.

The issue of “incomers” being automatically associated with unpopular decision making was highlighted when I bumped into one such person last week.  He did not wish to be named or indeed get embroiled in the recent arguments by writing a letter defending his fellow incomers.

But he felt affronted by the term and that he had been labelled such when he works hard behind the scenes, without fuss or publicity, on various community projects.
“Lymeites” or “incomers” – is there a difference?  After all, we are all Citizens of Lyme.  

Helping the young to live in their home town . . .

HATS off to the small group of well-intentioned Lyme citizens who make up the Community Land Trust.

The CLT is a non-profit voluntary body committed to finding suitable sites to create affordable housing, much needed in Lyme Regis. 

The average price of a house in Lyme is £375,000 so what chance do the young people of this town have to get on the property ladder? None.

With limited social housing available, it’s an obvious but often stated view that unless a solution can be found to enable young people to remain in their hometown, Lyme will become a dormitory for the elderly. 

Led by Denis Yell, the CLT have been working hard behind the scenes for the last two years to find a suitable site for a development of affordable rented homes, not an easy task given Lyme’s geographical challenges and lack of town centre undeveloped land.

With the help of town councillor Lorna Jenkin (secretary and treasurer) and directors Keith Jenkin, Brian Rattenbury and Richard McLaughlin, they’ve kept well out of the way of local politics that often stymie such projects, and have come up with a site near the golf club which will provide 15 new homes and a commitment that these should be occupied by local people.

The site is a fair way out of town but near a bus stop and is a significant step towards the provision of housing for the young of Lyme.

The CLT team are to be congratulated and encouraged to continue their good work.  

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