Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Dawlish people force a referendum on Manor House sale

Manor House
The Manor House was built in 1811 for Dawlish Urban District Council

Hundreds of people who attended a meeting about the sale of a Grade II listed building in Devon have won a temporary reprieve.

Dawlish Town Council wants to sell the Manor House which is home to many local clubs and societies.

But escalating maintenance costs mean residents could face a rise in council tax if the Manor House is not sold.

The 400 residents at the meeting on Thursday evening forced councillors to hold a town-wide referendum.

Local people said the Manor House was one of the town's "most precious" assets and there had not been sufficient consultation.

It does worry me how much it will cost the electorate
Geoff Wills, Mayor

Dawlish Model Railway Society, which is one of several groups which uses a room in the house, has been issued with a three-month notice to quit.

"It would be virtually impossible to find alternative accommodation where we can keep the equipment in situ," society spokesman Michael Davenport said.

The 19th Century Manor House was bought by Dawlish Urban District Council in 1946 and was used as council offices, with the gardens open to the public.

After local government reorganisation in 1974, the house was taken over by Teignbridge District Council and rooms were let out to clubs and societies, but the building fell into disrepair and was bought back by Dawlish Town Council in 1980.

Since then, extensive renovations have been carried out, including works to the roof, but the council said future maintenance costs would be an "unfair burden" on local tax payers.

Cllr Geoff Wills, Mayor of Dawlish, said: "It does worry me how much it will cost the electorate this year, next year and for further administrations to come.

"But it does show Dawlish is willing to turn out when there is a big issue to talk about."

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