Councillors must be brought to account’

I READ with horror the press release from St Ives Town Council about the Corn Exchange. I knew time was running out, but felt that eventually the due processes of planning and local accountability would prevent the loss of one of the finest buildings and

I READ with horror the press release from St Ives Town Council about the Corn Exchange. I knew time was running out, but felt that eventually the due processes of planning and local accountability would prevent the loss of one of the finest buildings and community facilities in St Ives.

Then, following a statement by the town clerk, I was devastated, as it was increasingly clear that the council would sell the building, soon and without any care about its future use.

Many people have said to me that they felt there was an ulterior motive by those councillors in favour of the sell-off. As an ex-councillor, I have resisted this opinion for I know that most councillors do their best for the community.

However, the evidence is mounting that, not only did the council have no intention of working with the community to save the building, but that a small group of councillors have been determined to sell off the building for some time.

I have frequently been told when canvassing, by increasing numbers of the public, that they won't vote as they don't trust councillors. "They are only in it for what they can get and do what they want," was the remark.

I always said this wasn't true and took great exception, as I knew just how much free time I gave to my work as a councillor and how hard I tried to represent the public's views.

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These councillors have demonstrated that they care nothing for the town and the majority of its people. They have ignored the 95 per cent of support for keeping the Corn Exchange in their own surveys.

They have told half-truths, given misleading information and obstructed ACE at every turn.

One councillor even showed his contempt for the electorate by attending his masonic lodge instead of the town council's extraordinary meeting on May 2 at which ACE presented its proposals.

I hope that all those councillors involved in this diabolical decision are brought to account.

I would ask everyone, even those disaffected voters, to show their contempt by completing ACE's questionnaire and, if that fails, at least vote for different councillors at next years town council elections.

JOHN SOUTER, The Green, Woodwalton

SO now we have it. Despite the mayor ridiculing the suggestion that St Ives Corn Exchange might become a theme pub, it now emerges from the town clerk (The Hunts Post, June 13) that, since the council is not seeking planning consent before sale, the town council will not be in a position to tell the new owners what to do with the building.

You would imagine a responsible town council would not willingly put itself in a position where it has little influence over the use of a major building in a prime location in the town.

Moreover, it also emerges that, in its haste to dispose of it, St Ives Town Council might sell the Corn Exchange and the land behind for as little as £400,000, which I find incredible.

Even if the council is set on proceeding with the sale it is surely incumbent on the councillors, both individually and collectively, to get the best possible price for such a valuable property.

The ratepayers of St Ives expect no less.

Clearly the Corn Exchange and adjacent land would be worth significantly more if it had planning permission before it was sold, so why is the town council not pursuing this obvious option?

Is it because it knows the district council has indicated it would never accept the planning brief in its present form and would insist that the building retain some community use?

To avoid the inconvenience of having to argue its case with the district council and the growing number of objectors, it is much easier for the town council to push through the sale of the Corn Exchange as soon as possible, and wash its hands of the whole affair.

Once the property is sold, any battles over the future of the Corn Exchange would then be between the new owners, the planners and those who want to protect the town they love.

The Corn Exchange would be lost to the town, but it would serve little purpose complaining to the town council, because the building's future would by then be out of its hands.

TONY BURGESS, Needingworth Road, St Ives

* I AM appalled at the way St Ives Town Council has handled the issue of the Corn Exchange with complete disregard for community aspirations, consultation procedures and Government initiatives such as the Quirk Review.

A spokesman from The Quirk Review team that I consulted recently said:"Quirk does not exclude parish councils. To conclude that it does is missing the point."

Over several years successive town councils have failed to properly care for and manage the town's assets.

Now councillors are washing their hands by selling this site for retail and housing, but without seeking planning consent for change of use.

So, having used the argument that this will realise the most financial reward, how can they get best value from the sale without this consent?

Councillor Deborah Reynolds claims to be the mayor of a properly elected body and as such is charged with dealing with the Corn Exchange challenge.

I say that councillors do not have the people's mandate as, at no time during any election campaign, was even the suggestion of selling the Corn Exchange mentioned. Neither have they have consulted with the community under the terms of good practice.

This is too big a decision not to have involved the people. If you are so sure, St Ives councillors, that you are doing the best for the 17,000 people who live in St Ives, for businesses and for those who live in the neighbouring villages by selling the Corn Exchange, then you will not be averse to a town poll, as this will settle the question once and for all.

Councils can disregard the results of a town poll.

It is also costly to arrange - but I suggest not as costly for St Ives as the decision to sell the Corn Exchange will prove to be.

PAULA LUTER, Priory Road, St Ives