After a heated discussion at the full council meeting this week, councillors voted to take control of district council assets.

Dartmouth town councillors voted eleven-three in favour of transferring the assets over to the town from South Hams District Council, despite opposition from councillors.

The assets in discussion include Coronation Park, Royal Avenue Gardens, the Castle Estate, the verges of Townstal Road and all buildings and structures thereon.

Opposition was raised by Cllr Iris Pritchard who said the councillors needed to have an inspection of the assets that were being proposed for transfer and learn more about the areas proposed, specifically the assets around the Castle and the public toilets. She asked the councillors to clarify whether “everyone knew everything” about what was being proposed.

Cllr Paul Allen supported this and suggested councillors should have another month for members to look through the details of the proposal, because “we want to get it right” he added.

Cllr Pritchard said: “Everyone tonight should think very carefully about what they’re voting for, the implications of what they’re voting for, the future generation of councillors who will take this task on after we are no longer around and what position it would put the town in.”

The Mayor Cllr Richard Cooke responded that most councillors knew “most the bits” within the proposal and recognised that the town council would not be taking over the assets in “perfect condition”. He added that this was one of the reasons for taking over the assets, to ensure the town council can put the areas in a condition the people of the town “would be proud of”.

Cllr David Gent said he was “rather disappointed” that Cllr Pritchard thought the town council would not enter into this agreement with due consideration and diligence and said “obviously we are”.

A further statement of opposition came from Cllr Steve Smith who asked for councillors to not vote on this proposal yet and instead consult the public first. However, the Mayor explained that it was the job of the town council to make this decision and explained that Follaton House had already run a public consultation.

In support of the proposal, Cllr Rob Lyon told councillors he would be “worried about the legacy” of Dartmouth if we don’t do it. He assured the council, that from talking to residents of Dartmouth, over 75 per cent of people had said they were in favour of the town council looking after the assets.

In further support, Cllr Tessa de Galleani said the town “is a tourist town now” and questioned why people would come to a “shabby, run down and old fashioned little town” that is “crumbling at the scenes”. She added: “We have to take it over and do something with it.”

In addition, the Mayor explained how the asset transfer would work. He said for five years, the town council would receive a descending amount of money from SHDC starting from a transfer date.

The Mayor admitted that the town council would need to get some more income over the next few years to cover costs in the future, which could be done by increasing rentals or small increases in the precept from about four years from now. He added: “I think we can show that we can do it.”

Deputy Mayor Cllr Tony Fyson said to councillors at the end of the discussion, we can’t “future proof” something like this because there are too many variables.

He said: “I think we would be very unwise to allow the detail to obscure the general direction of travel on this..and I agree with others that the alternative could be worse.

“We could talk so much we frighten our way out of this decision-there’s no reason to get frightened about it, there is plenty of flexibility here.”

Councillors had a recorded vote on the motion for the town council to proceed with the purchase of lands from SHDC where Cllr Pritchard, Cllr Smith and Cllr Allen voted against the proposal.

During an interview with the Chronicle, leader of the district council, John Tucker described the assets that will be transferred to Dartmouth town council as “liabilities”.

At a quarterly meeting of the five biggest towns in the district-Kingsbridge, Ivybridge, Totnes, Dartmouth and Salcombe, he was asked if he would be willing to devolve assets. To which he answered: “It depends what you mean by assets because most of our assets are liabilities. But if you want some liabilities, you are more than welcome to have them.”