Exmouth protest march over Elizabeth Hall sell-off plan
Plans to sell a seafront Victorian building in a Devon resort have upset many of its local residents.
Elizabeth Hall in Exmouth, and its surrounding land, has been put up for sale on the open market by East Devon District Council.
It said selling the building was a key part of its plan to bring prosperity to the town.
But local people fear the council is trying to "sell off" the seafront and have planned a protest march.
A petition organised by the Friends of Elizabeth Hall against the council's plans has been signed by more than 7,000 people.
"The seafront's more than two miles long and 80% of it has nothing on it at all," Friends spokeswoman Jilly Green said.
"We love our Victorian public hall and I'm concerned that if we lose the public hall, we'll lose the heart of Exmouth."
The council said extensive consultations had been undertaken into how best to strengthen Exmouth's economy and improve its appeal to visitors.
It said any would-be developers of Elizabeth Hall would have to show how they could enhance the seafront and improve links to the town centre.
'Use our waters'
Meanwhile, the National Coastwatch Institution said it was concerned that part of the seafront area being considered by the council for private investment included the tower used by its volunteers to safeguard beach and sea users.
Dee Scott, the Exmouth station's deputy manager, said: "Without us being there, there is a link in the chain that would definitely be missing and lives would be put at risk.
"We've just recently been given a Blue Flag award because our beach is one of the best in the country and that, hopefully, will encourage more people to come and use our waters.
The council said it would work closely with any affected organisation that wanted to investigate alternative accommodation.