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Sidmouth Town Council’s Annual Meeting

Chris Lockyear – Chair, Sidmouth Town Council

On 13th May we had our Annual Council meeting. This marks the start of a new year for the Council. I was very honoured to be elected as Chair of the Council again for a 3rd year.

I am very grateful for the confidence my fellow Councillors have in me. Hilary Nelson was also once again elected as Vice Chair. I am delighted by her appointment as we have worked closely together over the past few years and she brings both an energy and enthusiasm, together with a sharp mind for detail.

I was also delighted that we have now got some of our newer Councillors playing a more major role in support of the community. Stephen Blakeway and Edward Willis Fleming have been elected as Vice Chairs of the Environment and Tourism and Economy Committees respectively. Ian Barlow remains Chair of Environment and Hilary Nelson Chair of Tourism and Economy. Bernie Davis has also been elected Vice Chair of Youth Provision with Hilary Nelson remaining Chair of that Working Group. Kelvin Dent and Rachel Perram remain Chair and Vice Chair of Planning respectively.

The meeting also appointed Councillors as representatives on outside bodies as well as members with special responsibilities. These are important roles as it is essential that the Town Council remains connected to the many different organisations in the Sid Valley. I won’t list all the names but suffice it to say there are 22 different organisations with a Council representative. The full list is on our website, Sidmouth Town Council – Councillors – Sidmouth Town Council

There are five areas where we have one or more Councillors acting as Members with Special Responsibilities. These are: Finance, Public Conveniences, Hope Cottage/Sidmouth Museum, South West Water Liaison and Equalities. I want to spend the rest of this article talking about one of these; namely Public Conveniences.

Public Conveniences, Toilets, Loos, Restrooms, or whatever you call them, are an important part of public infrastructure, especially in a holiday seaside town like ours. What is often a surprise is that councils are not legally required to provide them. Both East Devon District Council (EDDC) and Sidmouth Town Council do in Sidmouth as we both think they are needed. The four Councillors who have agreed to take special responsibility in this area are Ian Barlow, Mike Goodman, John Loudoun and Rachel Perram. I am grateful to them as it is not always the easiest of tasks.

By coincidence, at our meeting we also considered EDDC’s offer to take responsibility for some of the toilets they currently manage. This is in line with their strategy of providing fewer toilets but investing and modernising those that they do. The Town Council were offered Long Park and Sidbury toilets and were informed of EDDC’s intention to offer the Sidford toilets for sale for redevelopment.

Whilst at first sight it might seem obvious that we should accept what is being offered, the reality is the cost of running toilets is huge and were we to take on one we don’t currently manage, the cost of doing so would be borne by the Council Tax payer. The main cost is the daily cleaning and opening and closing, however there are also costs associated with water and electricity as well as the building’s own Council Tax. Then there are the repairs as a result of wear and tear, but also unfortunately an increasing cost associated with deliberate vandalism. This has in some cases been very expensive to put right and is an unnecessary cost to all of us.

At our meeting we discussed the Long Park, Sidbury and Sidford toilets and whether the Town Council should take over responsibility. The Long Park ones are close to the Woolbrook shops as well as the skate park and Long Park playpark; all of which are popular destinations. We therefore agreed to take on responsibility, probably from 31 March 2025. The Sidbury ones were more difficult as they are somewhat out of the way and are not that well used. We therefore declined to take on the Sidbury toilets. Sidford toilets were not technically being offered to the Town Council but as they had been closed for four years we felt that there was no big demand and so agreed with the EDDC strategy.

Sidmouth Town Council currently own the Arches toilets with all the others being run by EDDC. Next year we will also have responsibility for Long Park. I am sure most of us use the facilities from time to time and appreciate the service. Please let me know if you have any comments or thoughts.

24 May 2024
Last Updated
24 May 2024
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