Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The meeting no mayor wants to chair

THE day all mayors dread is fast approaching - Friday, April 10th when the annual town meeting will be held at the Woodmead Halls.

I don’t think Sally Holman will be relishing this year’s gathering of parishioners after the battering she took last year - but surely it won’t be so bad?

Down the years the annual town meeting, in which the electorate get the chance to question their councillors, has been a bit of a damp squib with only a dozen or so attending.

Last year was a different matter.  It was standing room only and the council took a real bashing.

It was the reaction from the floor to a year which had been peppered by poor behaviour in the council chamber and which prompted town clerk John Wright to recently observe that the reputation of the council had been greatly harmed.

From the reports presented by the committee chairmen, however, you would have thought that the council was in line for a local government Oscar.

But who will ever forget the emotional and impassioned speech by Royal British Legion chairman David Manners before storming out,  and I have to admit I also came extremely close to losing it in an exchange with Mark Gage that did neither of us any favours.

It will not happen again because I will not be present at this year’s meeting but no doubt the View From will come in for more stinging criticism over our so-called sensational reporting. 

This past year has not been anywhere near as controversial so I don’t think Sally need worry too much, although she was overheard saying at her civic night on Friday: “I could have done without this past year.”

With the council standing down a month after the annual town meeting in readiness for the election on May 7th,  there’s little point in having an inquest on councillors’ performance these past 12 months.

It will, however,  give the outgoing council the chance to draw attention to their achievements over the past four years - and there have been many which this newspaper readily accepts - and we should also recognise that not all councillors have behaved poorly and all of them have put in many hours of voluntary service on our behalf.

With closing date for election nominations April 9th, at least the meeting will know who is standing again.

I have had the privilege of sitting both sides of the press bench and know from personal experience that it is not an easy job. 

Someone asked me if we intended to be so aggressive towards the new council. I drew their intention to our coverage of the pre-2010 council with whom we had an excellent relationship, especially with the staff.

Hopefully the new council will not be so clicky which will improve debate... but we will have to wait and see.

It may well have been a different story had it not been an election year

SO there was never any intention to move Lyme Regis Bowling Club to the Strawberry Field after all. Really?

It was just press speculation.

Town councillors last week said all they are doing is looking at their options for the development of Monmouth Beach and the bowling club can rest assured that when their lease expires in 2019 they will not be shunted up to the top of Charmouth Road.

Had the council chamber not been packed out by bowling club members, and had there not been an election in a few weeks time,  I suggest there might well have been a very different outcome.  

Packing out the chamber always works and has resulted in councillors down the years changing their minds for fear of upsetting the electorate. So good on the bowling club for rallying their troops. Moving the bowling club off Monmouth Beach, of course, is nothing new. When the former borough council set up the Lyme Regis Sports Centre Trust to oversee the creation of combined sporting facilities at the Davey Fort  (home of Lyme Regis Football Club) provision was made for a bowling green and, would you believe, a rifle shooting range. 

The creeping cliffs of Lyme put paid to those proposals and Lyme Regis FC was left with a minimum sized pitch which has cost tens of thousands of pounds to make  playable and has stunted the club’s ability to play at a higher standard ever since.

I’m all for the redevelopment of Monmouth Beach but I hope that can be achieved without lessening the recreational facilities. In my view the bowling club, in particular, is a great asset to the town. In coming up with a report to improve revenues,  town clerk John Wright estimated that, had it been the intention to move the bowling club, it would have cost £1.5 million to re-site it on the Strawberry Field.  That in itself probably meant it would never happen. 

What the new council needs to be doing is to thoroughly investigate a promise made many years ago - to replace the Woodmead Halls tennis courts. That too could be an expensive exercise.

I agree with Mark Gage (yes, you read that correctly). It’s not just about providing facilities for more cars down at the Cobb, which is already grossly overcrowded during the peak weeks. 

It’s about improving leisure and recreation facilities as well.

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