CAMPAIGNERS ARE vowing to carry on objecting to Newton Abbot's Victoria Gardens' revamp, despite the plan gaining approval for a funding application for £340,000 at a recent full Town Council meeting. The Stop The Debt campaign says it will draw "public attention to the absurdity of this loan". And, while accepting that the application has been approved, two Conservative councillors say that they will seek to keep the loan's costs down…
On 26 September the application for a loan for £340,000 for the Victoria Gardens revamp – previously reported on Newton Abbot People – was approved by Newton Abbot Town Council, 11 votes to 3.
Daphne Watts, the Lib Dem councillor for Bradley ward, Vice Chair of Finance and Resources, and former Mayor of Newton Abbot, was one of the 11 councillors in favour.
"Yes I voted in favour of Victoria Gardens," she said. "We are also going to do up Town Quay once the [pedestrian and cycle] bridge is in place. Again something residents have asked for… Monies will come from our limited capital funds."
But Lizzy Shepherd, from Stop The Debt – a group of local residents objecting to the plans – is determined to carry on with its campaign. "We will continue to draw public attention to the absurdity of this loan," she said, "as well as to the so-far unmentioned cost of maintenance for Victoria Gardens, which is bound to lead to more precept rises for local residents.
Lizzy believes there is "no democratic mandate" for "lumbering" Newton Abbot residents with the debt. "Too many of the town councillors think that, once elected, they're entitled to dip their hands in our pockets, so we'll be working to ensure they understand just whose money it is."
Kelvyn Shantry, the Conservative district councillor for Newton Abbot College ward, voted against the application.
"I certainly was not in favour of Newton Abott Town Council taking out this huge loan over 40 years," he said. "I am in favour of improvements to the area, but continue to maintain that Victoria Gardens can be rejuvenated at a much lower cost than £340,000.
"However the vote has taken place and my focus will be two areas: reduction of initial costs – by ensuring that the cost is rigorously examined with potential to find reductions in the initial projected cost – and reducing the borrowing cost – by working with Teinbridge District Council planners, allowing Newton Abbot Town Council to apply for substantial funding from developers paying the new Community Infrastructure Funding when they build new homes in Newton Abbot. I will also continue to press for a lower borrowing term rather than 40 years."
Neil Wilson, the Conservative Councillor for Bushey ward, also objected to the application for funding. "We will be fighting to keep the cost down by having the work independently valued and lobbying for developer's money, which would have been the best idea in the first place," he said. "The public is taxed enough – they don't deserve to have this debt and the future costs of upkeep hanging over their heads."
Colin Parker – the Lib Dem councillor for Milber ward and a member of Newton Abbot Town Council Finance and Resources Committee – had strongly backed the funding application. Prior to the vote, he said "Our town has been quite fortunate in the way it has maintained its vibrancy and appearance in recent difficult years. The regeneration of Victoria Gardens is one more step in the journey to rejuvenate Newton Abbot." Contacted by this website after the vote, he said he felt he had nothing more to add "as the decision has been made".
What do you think about the Victoria Gardens' revamp? Do the gardens need revamping? Is the Town Council right to apply for a £340,000 loan? Tell us here on Newton Abbot People
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