Cabinet meeting statement – 7 October 2015 by Independent Councillor Megan Armstrong, Exmouth Haldon Ward, Independent East Devon Alliance:
“Thank you, Chair and Members
I wonder if any of you saw the local Westcountry TV news last night? I mean particularly the distraught young woman who, last week, saw the sudden overnight collapse of her father’s Exmouth seafront business, DJ’s Diner.
As some of you may know, the closure raid, which was undertaken by Senior Council Officers, started at 6am on 1st October, without the prior knowledge of the tenant or his family.
Without going into detail now, I believe there are some serious questions to be asked about the methods and the process used, that is prior to, during and since these actions.
I was there later that morning and therefore witnessed much of it at first hand. Apart from the legal process and implications of this situation, I am particularly concerned about the human and moral response, which should be addressed in such circumstances. Surely decency, honesty and respect should be the watchwords of this Council at all times, whether from members or employees and especially towards members of the public, whom we are elected to serve.
Only two days earlier (last Tuesday) the seafront Carriage Cafe closed down and moved to Cornwall, where no doubt it will be a great success, as it has been in Exmouth for many years. The owner, a lifelong Exmouthian, moved out because he had had enough of the constant, ongoing pressure over several years for him to move, from this Council. People are devastated by this loss of a much-valued community facility and are already saying “Exmouth’s loss is Cornwall’s gain.” And they are right to say so.
So what future for the owner of DJ’s Diner and his family? At the moment it is extremely bleak with his business closed and no income.
Do we care that these small independent businesses are being pushed out? If we don’t then I suggest that we as a council should, because it is such small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities and we should be supporting and encouraging them to be as successful as possible for all our sakes, and not hounding them out.
I question this relentless drive to ‘regenerate’ (not only in Exmouth but also in other parts of East Devon) and at what cost to people’s livelihoods? Is this something of which we as a council, should be proud? And can we as councillors honestly defend the kind of behaviour which makes successful, small businesses feel unwelcome and unwanted?
I leave these questions for you to ponder.