Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Why Lyme will always be special to me

“SO you’ve abandoned us for your posh papers in London,” was how I was greeted at an event I attended in Lyme last week. 

Well, not really but I am spending much of my time out of town for the forseeable future.

Although I am still responsible for managing the View From series, I cover very few events in Lyme and my contribution to the editorial columns of this newspaper is confined to this column. 

Having spent a chunk of my long career in London, my new role editing local newspapers in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham provides a challenge I relish. It will probably be my last hurrah before retirement.

Of course, we are never short of a good story as such in London and, with Geoff Baker on the payroll,  we have had some crackers in recent weeks. “Met needs more Muslim mums with guns” is not the sort of headline that is ever likely to appear in the View From Lyme Regis.

As someone who has always been fascinated by local government – some would say, with some justification, obsessed – it is interesting to be so close to the workings of local government in the capital and to see at first hand the challenges of running the London boroughs.

Take the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as an example. South Ken is one of the most affluent areas in the country with its proliferation of mansions and Russian émigrés; North Ken has some of London’s most deprived areas.

The council is as blue as they come, as you can imagine, with some very political big hitters among their ranks, but the ruling Tories are challenged by a lively Labour opposition and don’t get it all their own way. All this makes good copy, of course.

One thing that has struck me these past few months whilst launching four new titles in London is to what lengths local authorities go to make city life as interesting and stimulating as possible for their multi-national communities. They really do go that extra mile.

Not that all the residents are happy with the services they receive, as you would expect.
Geoff Baker and I recently attended a swanky event in the Mayor’s Parlour in Kensington Town Hall. Very plush. 

The mayor’s limousine was parked outside and just as we were entering the building we witnessed a very dissatisfied customer who ran out of the offices and on his way ripped the official Kensington Crest of the top of the mayoral vehicle with two burley security guards in hot pursuit. No one else seemed to take too much notice as though it was an every day occurrence. 

Geoff looked at me and muttered: “Good story!”

Things, of course, are very different in this part of the world. The politics of local government is not so intent and whilst our councils at all levels strive to provide essential services and life-enhancing initiatives, the demand is nowhere near so great. And living in such a beautiful part of the world  has many compensations.

Having been born and raised in Lyme, I must admit I did not really appreciate how lucky we are to live in Lyme until I moved to London in my early 30s.

Now longer in the tooth, the change of pace worries me less, although there are times when I’m catching the 6.30am out of Axminster,  I ask myself:  “Why am I doing this?” And when my wife picks me up late at night I always ask her to drive through Lyme – “to see who’s about”.

So to answer that question about me abandoning my hometown. Never. Lyme will always be special to me.

A million reasons not to move bowling club

IN my comments in this column last week about the Monmouth Beach and whether Lyme Regis Town  Council wanted to move the Bowling Club to the Strawberry Field,  I made reference to a report by the town clerk and the estimation that it would cost £1.5million to provide a new club for the bowlers.

This was incorrect (see correction on page 3). The £1.5million John Wright referred to was the amount of capital which the council could expect to receive if they sold chalets on the site of the bowling club.

I am sure the town clerk has enough on his plate at the moment without me muddying the waters but it was an easy mistake to make. However, I am sorry if it caused the town clerk distress.

We were not the only ones to misinterpret the reference to £1.5million.  I spoke to two councillors about the figure and they both thought it referred to the cost of resiting the bowling club.

It’s a rather academic mistake, in fact, because should the council decide in  future to develop the bowling club site - and here we should make it clear they have a lease that runs to 2019 and the council has categorically said this is not their intention - I believe it would cost well over a million pounds to provide alternative facilities up of a similar standard at the Strawberry Field.

I make that judgement having recalled that when I was chairman of the football club and we were trying to move to the Strawberry Field the project was costed at £1.2 million - and that was ten years ago. 

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