An election at last… but one familiar face will be missing

Veteran councillor Owen Lovell has not put his name forward for re-election

THE big surprise in the list of 16 nominations for the 14 seats on Lyme Regis Town Council, for the May 2 election, is that it doesn’t include the name of Owen Lovell.

Colleagues expected the veteran councillor to put his name forward one more time after sitting on the council for more than 30 years, including two stints as mayor.

Only Stan Williams, the father of the council, has served longer and, at the age of 83, he has put himself forward again to extend his long and controversial career in local government.

Mr Lovell, a former Lyme policeman, was also a long-serving West Dorset district councillor and rose to the heights of chairman of the planning committee.

Mr Lovell and his wife Christine have been enjoying a three-month-long world cruise but his close colleagues thought he was intending to put his name forward again.

It is rumoured that Mr Lovell took out papers before he left for his holiday but there was a problem with the paperwork and it was not possible to contact him as he was in Vietnam.

It is known that he was recently angered having been named as one of three councillors who allegedly breached the Equalities Act by comments made in a discussion of the proposed pedestrian crossing for Broad Street and not having had the chance to defend himself. The other two councillors named were Brian Larcombe and Jeff Scowen. Their names were redacted from a council report but named in the public forum by crossing campaigner Lizzie Wiscombe.

Had Mr Lovell been in two minds about standing, I’m sure the crossing controversy would have persuaded him to stand again so he could have defended his position in the council chamber. That opportunity has now been denied to him.

Owen has given this town good service, not only as a town and district councillor but also as a fireman and a leading light in a number of charities over the years, especially the old folks’ Christmas dinner fund, which he has headed for several years.

Owen and Chris were very popular First Citizens and his knowledge of council affairs will be greatly missed.

There will be a deep sigh of relief that there will be an election in Lyme with the last two councils being returned without an election.

The 16 nominations includes two young people, 20 year-old Leon Howe, son of former town councillor Rikey Austin, who is standing as a Labour candidate for the Lyme Regis and Charmouth ward on the new Dorset Council, and her fossil-hunting husband Paddy Howe.

The other youngster is 19 year-old Kelsey Ellis, youngest daughter of the current mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, and her consort husband Alan. If Kelsey is elected and follows in her mother’s footsteps, she could relieve me of the somewhat dubious distinction I still hold of being the youngest mayor of Lyme.

I do hope that both these youngsters get a chance to serve and, if successful at the polls, they will be treated better than Lucy Campbell was when she was first elected in her early twenties.

Being a town councillor is not an easy job and the Lyme council has gone through two difficult cycles, eight years during which factions of the council have struggled to find a real consensus on too many important issues in the town, which I believe has affected the morale of staff greatly. But that should not prevent us from thanking them for their service in difficult circumstances.

The number one priority for the newly elected councillors, in my view, is to heal any wounds that continue to fester in the Guildhall, and there are many, and instil a passion for Lyme into the staff so they are proud of the town they serve.

With the new unitary authority already operating out of Dorchester, this is an important time for Lyme Regis especially because of our geographical position on the very western outskirts of the new council area. It is essential we establish a good working relationship with the new authority.

Unlike Lyme Regis, other nearby authorities will not be going to the polls, however. In Charmouth, a friendly council if ever there was one, there are only seven nominations for 12 seats and in Axminster things are even more apathetic with only seven candidates for 15 places.

Some may argue that people have not put themselves forward for election because they are happy with how their local elected representatives behave. I’m not sure I go for that one. There’s a general apathy towards local government these days and given the arrogance and manner in which some councillors have acted over the years, that does not surprise me at all.

I was astounded to read that in Dorset there are actually 20 parishes where no nominations at all have been received.

Wartime window news

I LOVE old newspapers. Well, as an old newspaperman, I would, wouldn’t I? So I was particularly fascinated by copies of some iconic wartime front pages that have been plastered over the window of the former Lucy-Ann shop at the bottom of Broad Street, which I understand is about to be transformed into a coffee shop called Audrey’s.

Some of these papers are quite rare and I would love to know where the new owner, Charles Canham (pictured above) got them. Were they found inside the building, I wonder?

My efforts to track Mr Canham down have failed so far but I hope to be able to talk to him soon.

One of the most fascinating front pages is the Sunday Express June 9 1946 issue which records that of the 11 million people who crowded into London for the Victory parade, only 127 were injured, and most of them fainted.

Woodmead Halls
About Philip Evans 388 Articles
Veteran journalist and newspaper manager Philip Evans has worked in the publishing industry for more than half a century. He started out as a reporter for Pulman’s Weekly News as a young man and went on to work for an international publishing company in the UK, South Africa and Australia before returning to Lyme Regis where he is still reporting on local events as he has done for more than 53 years.

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