True to form, EDDC’s relocation project is not going entirely smoothly.
Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting (6 April) showed cracks already appearing, which the Leadership seemed to merrily paper over.
Long-term Exmouth councillors’ criticism of the planned design of their Town Hall renovation was treated with apparent amusement by Leader Paul Diviani and Chief Officers, Mark Williams and Richard Cohen.
Steve Gazzard (Lib Dem) said the proposed design was not flexible enough, a view echoed by his Tory counterparts, who complained of the “inadequacy of the space to be provided”, and were unhappy that “ all the memorabilia” has had to be taken down. They were also shocked at the possible prospect of having to book, or pay rent , for use of the Council Chamber.
Richard Cohen agreed that “Memorabilia is an issue”, and acknowledged the need for “an organised booking system”, and for what he called “the odd gremlin to be ironed out”. But he had no response to an exasperated Cllr Pauline Stott (Con, Exmouth), whose question showed that rather more than gremlins are involved.
It was proving very difficult, she said, to find alternative premises for staff obliged to move out so the Exmouth Town Hall renovation work could be done. (Estimated time 8-10 months, at a cost of £1m) .“How are YOU getting on with finding somewhere to move out to? I’m wondering if you have found somewhere to move out to?” she repeated.
The proposals for the Honiton newbuild office were criticised, too, with Cllr Peter Faithfull (Ind, Ottery) finding them seemingly “small and cramped”. We have no measurements..of what we are getting”, he said.
And Cllr Jill Elson (Con, Exmouth) was astonished that there was no staff café included in the Heathpark designs. Once again, this was treated as a joke, with Cllr Philip Skinner interjecting that there was always the nearby burger bar!
And Leader Paul Diviani’s remark that they were not using “stellar architects” for the new building, added no reassurance for those anticipating sound investment for public money.
More on that last point coming soon..