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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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AXMINSTER: New group set up to run the tourist centre
Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Axminster Tourist Information Centre (TIC) volunteers have called a public meeting, aiming to take over and safeguard the future of the centre.
The meeting follows Axminster Chamber of Commerce’s decision to cease running the TIC after doing so for about ten years.
The chamber’s Executive Committee sees the TIC as a valuable asset - but managing it takes disproportionate slices of time and resources.
As a result, the chamber has invited interested parties to form a group to take over the TIC.
TIC volunteers Sarah Crook (a former TIC manager) and Shane Morgan (a former chamber chairman) are part of a group which, seemingly reluctantly, responded by calling the public meeting.
Mr Morgan said: “There appears to be no choice to the TIC needing to move forward independent of the chamber.
“That is what the meeting is all about, to restructure.”
Anyone interested in providing expertise, donations, time and fundraising ideas is urged to attend.
The meeting will be held in the Senior Citizens’ Centre on Tuesday, April 8th, starting at 5pm.
The whole TIC issue was on the agenda for the chamber members’ meeting on Tuesday of last week.
A larger than usual attendance of about 40 people turned up for a meeting that featured robust debate.
Mrs Crook said she was “saddened” by the decision to divorce the TIC from the business community”.
Mayor Jeremy Walden asked the chamber to keep the TIC for another year, saying: “I’m asking that the chamber runs the TIC for one more year so we can bring together people and a committee to run it from April 2015.
“To stop funding just as the season is about to start is short-sighted.”
But new chamber chairman Lisa Lyman replied: “The funding won’t stop.”
She confirmed that funding is in place to take it to the end of March 2015.
She also said there were grants and money from fundraising on its way, and added: “Get the organisation in place and we are happy to hand over the bank account.”
Chamber treasurer Ian McMurtry added: “The chamber is happy to do what it can to facilitate the handover.”
The chamber also offered the ‘new’ TIC ample space on its website.
One person asked if the proposed new group would be a short-term measure until the TIC moves to the heritage centre being created in Thomas Whitty House.
Mayor Walden said: “It is my understanding the group would become a tenant [in the heritage centre].”
Dr John Church of Axminster Heritage explained that the heritage centre business plan “revolves around the TIC moving in as a tenant.
*The TIC attracts about about 10,000 visits a year and currently costs in the region of £11,000a year to run.
A few days after the meeting, Mrs Lyman and the executive committee issued the following statement: “Since our announcement that we felt it in the best interest of the TIC to create a membership to enable it to run independently, the townspeople, the Mayor and businesses have come out in force to show their support of an Axminster TIC.
“The Chamber stepped in 10 years ago to keep its doors open when the district council cut its funding.
“We have struggled to finance it, but have enabled it to be open year round with limited hours during the off-season.
“This would not have happened without the continued personal dedication of Shane and Claire Morgan, Duncan Colvin and Sarah Crook.
“We are very pleased to announce that the TIC will now become an independent organisation.
“The huge local support for Jill Ruddick and Anne Seward (members of staff) has suggested that additional funding may now be available from local charities and possibly the town council next year.
“This is funding and support that the chamber simply did not have access to.
“The TIC now has the opportunity to go from being run with very limited, and sometimes uncertain funds, to a growing number of secure financial sources providing longer opening hours, and input from people within the local tourism industry working together to specifically promote Axminster.
“We are very excited for them, and for Axminster, and look forward to working together.”
Chamber members complaining about a lack of TIC consultation, see page 7 for full story
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