4,500 sign up to stop sale of Exmouth's Elizabeth Hall

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By ExmouthPeople | Thursday, May 10, 2012, 23:12

NEARLY 4,500 people have now signed the petition to stop the sale of Exmouth's Elizabeth Hall. The campaign is gaining momentum as For Sale signs went up earlier this week on the seafront community building, confirming East Devon District Council's decision to sell the Victorian hall. And the debate is deepening, with local MP Hugo Swire supporting EDDC's plans for the redevelopment of the site…

A spokesperson for Friends of the Elizabeth Hall confirmed that 4,480 signatures have now been received. The number of signatures is gathering pace as community groups, such as the Exmouth Light Orchestra and the specially formed Friends of the Elizabeth Hall, turn up the heat with letters in the press, a poster campaign around the town, a soon to be launched website and many shops taking the petition.

The campaigners want to see the Hall saved and enhanced for future generations, emphasising its use as an arts centre, small concert hall, meeting hall and rehearsal area. One supporter, writing to the local press, enthused about the hall, describing it as an "Exmouth landmark" that "adds distinction and dignity to the seafront, and is a reminder of a lost world of gentility and elegance".

Meanwhile East Devon MP Hugo Swire has sided with EDDC. In the Exeter Express and Echo, he said that "Exmouth needs good-quality arts facilities. But the Elizabeth Hall is a small space occupying a large space. I think we can have a better building than what we've got at the moment."

Not fit for purpose

Selling the Elizabeth Hall was one of the major proposals in the Exmouth Masterplan, the document that outlined EDDC's future regeneration of the town. EDDC insists that the Elizabeth Hall is not fit for purpose. The decision has been backed by Devon Councillor and Exmouth Champion Tim Wood, who said that "the Elizabeth Hall has been a good servant to the town but now looks tired and out of place on such an important seafront location. It's right to respect and look after your past when it matters, but not to be a slave to it either, and Exmouth needs to compete with other visitor locations if it wants to revive its fortunes."

The building is being sold through commercial property agents Jones Lang Lasalle. On its website, the agents describe Elizabeth Hall as "a prime development site located on The Esplanade, benefitting from sea views of Lyme Bay". It has "potential for change, including a replacement landmark building".

Alternative accommodation

It's understood that the bidding process will continue until November, and the sale procedure will conclude in mid 2013. EDDC says it has pledged to work with Exmouth Town Council to help current users of the site find alternative accommodation within the town. The Council also says it will consider a community-led bid for the site, provided it offers "a competitive market value".

Organized by the Friends of the Elizabeth Hall, the petition to save the Hall is now available in many of the town shops and outlets, including Franklins on the Strand, Tasti Mana, Moreys and Sitting Pretty. In addition, campaigners have been in action around the Magnolia Centre. You can also learn more about the campaign – and sign the petition – at the Elizabeth Hall on Sundays during the weekly charity market.

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