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50


Cllr Richard Cooke


Dartmouth Town Council Mayor


Cllr Rob Lyon Former mayor


By The Dart spoke to two councillors about the challenges Dartmouth has faced over the past 10 years, and what it must do to survive the next ten.


Why did you both become councillors? Cllr Cooke: When I retired I was looking for things to keep my mind active. I wanted to learn more about the local community and the people living here. Cllr Lyon: I had never thought of being a councillor until one day my dear friend Roger Kempton said he was going to stand for council. I put myself forward after he died to try and continue his vision for the town.


How much influence does the mayor of Dartmouth have? Cllr Cooke: The mayor can be listened to perhaps more than others, but there isn’t any great benefit to being a mayor. You are basically the chairman of the council. Councillors have different viewpoints and the chairman has to pull them together to make sure some progress is made.


What have you tried to achieve during your time as mayor? Cllr Cooke: Rob started the move to try to get Dartmouth to take back its property from South Hams Council and I have tried to con- tinue that. The care they took of the parks and gardens used to be superb but now there is no money to do anything. We need control to


make sure these important assets are looked after for the benefit of all in the town.


As mayor, do you set out to persuade the majority to agree with your ideas, or do you just react to events? Cllr Lyon: You do react to events. Things do change and the council’s job is to make sure change is for the betterment of the town and the businesses in it. Cllr Cooke: Because I was Rob’s deputy for three years, we moved an agenda to return the Guildhall to a useful condition. It had been abandoned for years but I had always argued it was a community asset that we needed to make the most of. Now it is actually showing its form as a community venue.


What is the purpose of the town council? Is it the betterment of the community or the prosperity of the local economy? Cllr Cooke: It is to react to very local needs of the population, particularly to look at the needs of the residents of the town. In the face of quite loud ‘noise’ from businesses round here residents do tend to get forgotten. Cllr Lyon: We do want to encour- age businesses. We need more jobs in Dartmouth - good properly paid


jobs. It’s the prosperity of the town we are interested in, along with making sure the residents of the town are looked after.


What are Dartmouth’s strengths and weaknesses, for both busi- nesses and the community? Cllr Lyon: It’s strength is the river. That’s the first part of Dartmouth I saw, I sailed in one day and I thought it was amazing. Cllr Cooke: The fact it’s an attrac- tive place is a strength but in some ways it’s also its weakness. We are at the end of a long and fairly rubbish road so to some extent there is a degree of isolation. We have an aging population with the proportion of young people in the town falling. The job opportunities are very few and far between. If we don’t have an increase in popula- tion it will be almost impossible to sustain the town’s policing, educa- tion and health services.


What do you think of the pro- posed West Dart development? Cllr Cooke: We campaigned as a council to try to keep up the proportion of ‘so called’ afforda- ble housing at West Dart. I say ‘so called’ because it’s just 20%off the average price of a house, which in Dartmouth last year was £384,000. Someone earning an honest living


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