I dropped by the Lyme public meeting last night to do a little fact-finding. Suffice to say that I did indeed find little fact and spent a feedback laden hour with 75-ish others and learnt what?
What I was interested in really was how far the "shop local" campaign had moved the residents.
Bear in mind that the application Tesco are making in Lyme is nothing like a regeneration plan, it revolves around moving into an existing retail premises and therefore there's a series of applications relating to building alterations and the like.
First the credit, to Lyme's mayor and town clerk for respecting the rules that state that they have a public meeting when requested, thereby having to put up with a jibe by others who thought they shouldn't. Democracy is alive in Lyme and its elected representatives did their job, even if the "I can shout loudest so I'm right" were in residence!
From then on, what started out as a "shop local" campaign centred around the Tesco takeover of the Woolies store started to slide into a "what's wrong with Lyme" type of debate. Of this, sides were quickly drawn, and going by the applause, there were three pretty evenly split groups...the "LoveLyme" group concerned about shopping local; the (for want of a tag) "OldeLymers" who wanted cheap shopping, didn't give a toot about tourist and art shops etc. Then a third group who were either a bit of both, or sat and clapped nothing.
For brevity, that's a bit of simplistic labelling, but it'll give you a feel.
Choice cuts from the meeting?
"Tesco couldn't see the point in coming so that's how much they care"
"They have a narrative of inevitibilty about them (Tesco)"
"The Co-Op is too expensive here, I shop in Seaton/Axminster/Bridport"
"The Co-Op is a convenience store" (met with the rejoinder - "So is the Tesco Express")
"Done Deal", "LymeLuvvies"
"Why don't you all move to North Korea?"
But thereafter I witnessed the same old problems it appears that lots of towns face, of empty shops, parking, traffic, affordable housing, the balance between tourism and local trade, and how far you'll go to shop. This last one seemed to be answered not by whether a superstore solves this, but, people will travel in any case, one resident openly saying they go to Sidmouth.
So the idea that we (Seaton) all travel to Exeter because of the lack of shops, isn't so, a more accurate answer is "Have car, will travel"
After an hour, the meeting started to meander, and it was time I ate, there's a chippy outside the Marine Theatre...but it was Monday so it was home for a sandwich.
What did I learn then?+++UPDATE: another view of the meeting can be seen here
I also see that the "view from seaton" is publishing letters about the Lyme situation, which adds to confusion as you have to know what's happening over there to know it's Lyme they're referring to.