Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Surely, it’s all a question of trust?

THE long love affair between Lyme Regis Development Trust and Lyme Regis Town Council seems to be over.

It was a long time coming.

The cracks in the relationship  which has delivered many benefits  to the town were more than evident at a recent meeting when trust representatives  David Gale and Peter Jeffs made a presentation to councillors.

The relationship has worn thin following two decisions made by the trust which have angered a number of councillors:  firstly, changes made to the community room in St Michael’s Business Centre, which is partly owned by the town council; secondly the decision to sell Monmouth House, a significant property in Monmouth Street providing affordable housing units which was given to the trust to manage. 

There was much talk in the town about an organisation which had worked hard at promoting affordable housing kicking tenants out onto the streets, but the trust argued that both Magna Housing and the Community Land Trust was not interested in taking on the building, the maintenance costs of which were now beyond the trust’s resources.

The bust-up over St Michael’s revolved around the trust converting the lobby area into separate interview rooms for their job club, which meant that people attending the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, had to wait for their appointment in the kitchen area.

Town councillors were miffed that, as a part owner of the building (they have an eight per cent share), they were not consulted on this matter.

And there were fears that the CAB, a much valued service in Lyme, were looking for alternative, less central accommodation, but I understand this is not the case and they are staying put.

There were some sharp exchanges between the trust representatives and councillors at a recent meeting in which Strategy and Policy chairman Mark Gage had to intervene.  Say what you like about Mark Gage - and I have - he’s always quick to ensure that his committee members are treated with respect.

The whole role of the development trust has come into question in recent weeks with my fellow columnist Chris Boothroyd  raising the relevance of its Lyme Forward arm at a recent meeting.

The relationship between the development trust and the town council has been the subject of confusion as far as the man in the street is concerned since its formation and has led to a number of “who’s running tnis town?” allegations over the years. But we should not forget what the trust has delivered, and particularly the role former chief executive Marcus Dixon played in setting up the Sure Start Centre, the organising of the Fossil Festival as a world renowned event and the establishment of The Hub youth club, to name just three.

In the final analysis, I think the development trust has been good for Lyme with a huge amount of voluntary effort going into the various projects. This newspaper has dedicated hundreds of column inches to their activities and ambitions over the years, some would say too many. 

Getting funding for such organisations has been difficult during the recession and this remains a great challenge for the developent trust, especially the funding of the community resource unit, LymeNet.

But it would seem that better communication between the town council and the trust is essential if the relationship is going to mature and continue to benefit the town.

NEWS that Lyme Regis could be losing another public house will be met with much sadness in the town - especially as it is a real locals’ boozer.

Plans are in the offing to turn the popular Nag’s Head in Silver Street into a bed and breakfast establishment with mine hosts Rob and Debbie Hamon taking much deserved retirement after many years dispensing hospitality and bonhomie across their bar.

If the planning application does go through and the property is sold, Lyme will be down to seven pubs. I think I’m right in saying that at one time the town had 13 hostelries and, in my lifetime, I have seen five  establishments close - the Dolphin in Mill Green, the London Inn in Church Street, the Victoria in Uplyme Road, the New Inn in Broad Street and the Angel in Mill Green.

With the Nag’s being slightly out of town, Rob and Debbie had to find a niche for their business - and that niche was establishing the Nag’s as the first port of call for locals, serving well-kept beers at reasonable prices, a home for the best darts players in town and regular music nights.

But they will be best remembered for the huge amount of money they have raised over the years for good causes. 

There can’t be many charities  in Lyme which have not benefited from their generous nature over the years and the total raised would run into tens of thousands of pounds.

They will be sadly missed.

PR guru and chief council critic Geoff Baker spends night with the Mayor. That’s the sort of sentence I never expected to write in this column. Fear not. It was all above board - to get a beach hut for Audrey Vivian.

Someone asked me if it was true that Geoff commandeered the duvet and Sal slept in the pillow case. Boom! Boom!

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