Pilot scheme puts facilities in Beer put back into community’s hands

Jubilee Gardens in Beer. Picture: Richard Wright.

Jubilee Gardens in Beer. Picture: Richard Wright. - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of district council assets in Beer, including car parks and play areas, have been put back in the hands of the community.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) cabinet decided to allow Beer Parish Council (BPC) to take on a number of assets in the village, worth £315,000, at its meeting on Wednesday (October 2).

Part of Beer Head car park, Star Bank, a play area above Pumping Station, Jubilee Gardens, Charlie's Yard and Beach Court Car Park will be transferred to the parish council as part of a pilot devolution scheme.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Councillor Geoff Pook, a parish and district councillor for Beer, said this was a 'transfer of opportunity'.

Cllr Pook said: "The opportunity for the community to use them for the best advantage.

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"It is quite likely that we have the know-how to use them because we live with them every day."

However, Cllr John Loudoun said approving this would be 'giving away public assets' and would make district council leader Ben Ingham 'East Devon's Margaret Thatcher'.

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He said: "This is not a pilot, this is the beginning of a new route of travel.

"This has been driven by the parish council, this is not driven by us."

Cllr Paul Arnott said: "I think as a council we have a duty of care to the people of Beer to make sure we are not passing onto them a liability they do not need."

EDDC will retain responsibility for the beach, the cliff, the majority of Beer Head car park, the bottom section of the beach access road and central car park.

The parish council will have flexibility to sell, sublet and assign the assets, provided that any financial returns are reinvested in the Beer community and that it is used for the public's enjoyment and benefit.

For example, Beer Parish Council would be permitted to convert the public convenience building into a café or ice-cream kiosk.

The cabinet papers stated that the parish council would be taking on a risk but it would get local control of the assets, their use, maintenance and management and decision making around changes in use and income generating opportunities.

Responsibility for agreeing detailed terms and conditions for the transfer has been delegated to the district's deputy chief executive, Richard Cohen.

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