Support was pledged for council chamber

By West Somerset Free Press in

I am indebted to Watchet Town Council for their response (Your Letters February 24) to my letter regarding the sale of the council chambers.

I accept that indeed the chambers were purchased by the town council in 1992, having leased it from the Wyndham Estate since the beginning of the century.

It was purchased for and on behalf of the town and its residents to avoid it being lost to the town.

I accept the chambers were not gifted but in fact purchased by the townspeople as what was assumed would safeguard its future for the generations to come.

The original council that met there was totally responsible for the furnishing, renovations and additions to the building that gave it its very distinctive period attraction.

I accept that the council intended to conduct a comprehensive consultation with the residents, but by its own admission, it was not entirely successful and in effect was a fruitless exercise.

I’m afraid the council was also selective in its response to my letter, specifically that there was no mention or explanation of how the figure of £ 80,000 for the building’s restoration was arrived at.

I’m also a little surprised that the council was unaware that, with the potential for the building to remain for the benefit of the community, a number of individuals and organisations pledged not only their support for such a scheme but were also prepared to pledge monies, from a modest £5 to £1,000, to save the building for Watchet.

I’m sorry that the council was upset by my description of fold-up picnic tables being used for its meetings, despite the fact I have a picnic table along similar lines, and so wish to rephrase that as “substantial picnic tables”. I also used the phrase “folding chairs” when I should have referred to them as “stacking chairs”.

I was unaware that the chair donated by Vic Danby was used for meetings and for that I apologise.

I was a little amused, however, that it was returned to the storeroom after each meeting and not on display in the visitor centre in case a “visitor sat on it”.

It is a very heavy chair and might I humbly suggest that dragging it backwards and forwards from the storeroom for each individual meeting is putting it in more jeopardy of damage than the most ardent and enthusiastic visitor could manage.

I would also consider, due to its considerable bulk, that there may be a possible health and safety issue, with the potential for an unfortunate councillor to suffer a hernia moving it.

I’m sorry to say that if the council considers that sitting in a room surrounded by holiday gifts and the general trappings of a visitor centre can compare favourably with the original chambers, a historic building with the ship paintings of Thomas Chidgey and Captain Press adorning the walls, the original crested fireplace, the master-and-slave clock and other accumulated trappings over the decades, it is frankly ridiculous.

I am perfectly aware that the building is protected by its Grade II listing as I was personally involved in producing a paper regarding both the exterior and interior features of the building to comply with this listing.

This was carried out because a number of residents were concerned that important features may be lost. Individual copies were supplied to each councillor and to the best of my knowledge, no acknowledgement has been made of this.

Nick Cotton, Swain Street, Watchet

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