Looking for answers over dinner

Regent Cinema
The Regent Cinema – fenced off and left empty since March 2016

ACCOMPANIED by my wife Jackie, I spent a pleasant couple of hours at the golf club on Saturday evening at the annual dinner of the Lyme-Regis-St George’s Twinning Association, being a life-member.

Having exchanged pleasantries with those on our table the subject got around – as it often does when we attend such functions – to what the headlines were likely to be in the next LymeOnline.

Francesca was on holiday at the time and I had no idea to be truthful.

So the discussion moved to my thoughts on some of the issues that face Lyme in the coming years.

“What’s the latest on the Regent Cinema?,” they asked. I wish I knew. The last public statement was that an unnamed local businessman who was negotiating to buy The Regent had asked for patience as discussions with the owners continued.

Whilst there are numerous rumours about the property having been sold, which we believe to be correct, there has been no further public announcement.

The big fear is, of course, that the property will be converted into flats but again we have no conformation on that.

What we did agree upon was that the Regent site was deteriorating badly and was not a good image for the main street.

Which brought us quickly to the subject of the status of the Palmer’s Brewery plans to convert the Three Cups a bit further down the street.

Again, the last official statement from Palmer’s was that their plans had been put on hold during COVID and it was their intention to revive them once the economic climate improved.

We all agreed that the fabric of the Three Cups building was continuing to deteriorate and that the council should be putting pressure on the owners to smarten the place up.

Having two iconic buildings within 100 yards of each other in such a prime position in the main street is not good for the trading reputation of Lyme Regis.

The other and more challenging topic facing Lyme which we discussed was the town’s increasing traffic issues, a thorny subject which has been on the council agenda for 40 years or more.

We all agreed that Lyme had reached saturation point when it comes to attracting visitors and whilst traders naturally want as much business as possible during the summer months, you have to wonder whether our parking problems and traffic congestion issues put off more people coming to the town.

A couple from Seaton who are keen members of the twinning association said they never visited Lyme during the summer months because of the parking problems.

It may be that the council will have to consider a more radical solution to the traffic issue but there doesn’t seem to be a strategic proposal in the offing.

One area which I believe is a continuing problem is the behaviour of some councillors in Lyme. I didn’t want to stray into this as one member of our table was one of the more sensible councillors, who does not court publicity and it would have been unfair to put him in such a position.

The people of Lyme have lost faith in the council which is a pity for those who work behind the scenes. The unacceptable shenanigans we have witnessed in the past couple of years masks some of the good things the council has achieved during a very difficult time.

There seems a reluctance by some councillors to recognise that all members have a view which should be respected and that they have a right to express that view without being derided and abused.

I think it was John F. Kennedy who is his best selling book, ‘Profiles in Courage’, penned when he was a young senator, wrote of his fellow politicians who championed “the old adage that no one has a monopoly on truth”.

We need a council that respects the views of others. Is that too much to ask for? In the reader survey we are currently carrying out about which stories our readers enjoy most, the town council performs very poorly.

Is it any wonder?

And so it’s goodbye from me!

IT is with a heavy heart that I have to inform you, dear reader, that this will be my last Lyme Matters column.

I’ve written an opinion column for one paper or another for 22 years and the time has come to put away my reporter’s notebook. I can hear the cheers from the Guildhall ringing in my ears!

Very few local papers have opinion columns any more, mainly because they are manned by young journalists who are not experienced enough or encouraged to do so.

My daughter Francesca, who edits LymeOnline, writes a very readable ‘All Over The Town’ column every week (except this week as she was on holiday!) and the fact that I don’t cover any public meetings any more because of deteriorating hearing, finding relevant subject matters to write about gets more difficult as the years pass.

This doesn’t mean that I am retiring after a long and interesting career going back 55 years.

Francesca has had sole charge of content in LymeOnline for some time now and does a brilliant job. I will continue to stand in for her when she takes a break and look after the commercial side of the business.

I will continue to write the sport content and will, no doubt, write a nostalgia or comment piece occasionally should a subject matter arise.

I am a firm believer that those in public office should be held to account and LymeOnline will continue to keep a close interest in the affairs of Lyme Regis Town Council which in recent years has brought shame on the town.

So those councillors who think “Thank God, we’ve got rid of him at last” will be severely disappointed.

If you put your head above the parapet in journalism you must accept that it’s going to be shot off. And I’ve had mine blown away many times.

I make no apology, as a locally born resident who has tried to do the best for my hometown, for rocking the boat but I think if you went back over all the columns I have written, the number of critical ones are far outweighed by those that praise the town and its inhabitants.

Columnists are never going to win a ‘Mr Popularity’ contest and should never attempt to do so. In a small town, however, you meet your readers regularly and I’ve become immune to the amount of stick I have taken over the years.

I consider it a privilege to have been able to express my view and to promote all that is best about Lyme and would like to thank all of you for your support over the past few years.

It’s been a blast!

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks mate, it has been a real pleasure staying in touch with home through your column. I shall miss it.

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