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A ” huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems…being glossed over”, yet Council has approved EDDC office relocation.

SOS Chair, Richard Thurlow, clearly explained those “uncertainties and unresolved problems” in his speech (copied below) to Full Council last week (Weds 25th March). The points were unanswered at the meeting, and remain so.


The public have not been permitted to have other than a superficial view of the costings which make up the attempt to persuade that Relocation is cost neutral. Councillors and the public have to take the results as presented without understanding or knowing the processes involved, or appreciating the range of sensitivity of the output.

It is likely that the review undertaken by Grant Thornton and Gleeds is technically competent within the parameters given to them.. This is more than I can say for all the work undertaken by your DCEO, which has been characterised by wrong data, erroneous calculations and embarrassing u-turns.

The problem with all such analyses is that the results are highly dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the data used and the validity of any predictions. Slight changes in both can make significant differences in the results.

This is very important to understand. In this case, the review has come up with a single result.. namely a stated cost and betterment over 20 years. I am surprised to see that there is no attempt to quantify a range of costs and benefits depending on whether the input such as the costs of energy, are higher, or lower than those assumed. This is a weakness, as it implies that the single result is mathematically and financially correct. This is not so.

In addition, Grant Thornton/Gleeds say, and I quote;-
2.4 The conclusions are based solely on the results of the Model and therefore do not consider any qualitative aspects of the options, and nor have we considered the extent to which the office relocation project will meet the Council’s service or efficiency aspirations/objectives.

This is telling you that the financial equation stacks up, but not whether the relocation project is good, or bad, or meets your objectives.

We firmly believe that the project is bad , that it ignores a number of issues and we don’t think that it meets your objectives. There are a huge number of uncertainties and unresolved problems which are being glossed over.

You should ask yourselves the following questions:-

• Are you really happy that all various options for moving were considered? Various options have been assessed against a highly biased one of using the whole of the Knowle and basically doing nothing to it except some urgent repairs, repairs which have been purposefully neglected over the past few years. The option of using and modestly improving the “new Building” at the Knowle and a refurbished building at EXMOUTH has not been considered This is a serious omission.
• Are you really happy with the disposal of an asset worth £9-10m, (the land alone is worth £7-8m), to provide assets which are acknowledged to be worth £3.25m at Honiton and £0.9m at Exmouth ? a total of £4m. This is just throwing money away.
• Are you really happy about taking out a loan for over £9.25m for several years. When the future is so unclear? And carry over a loan of £2.1 m for 20 years?
• Have you really thought about the costs and difficulties of “Customer orientated mobile working practices, the Worksmart programme and mobile hubs”? What does this mean? The introduction of IT systems and practices are notoriously difficult to plan, cost and implement. Huge cost overruns are usual.

This is probably the most important decision that EDDC will make; it is being rushed through with indecent haste, at the fag end of an administration that may well change significantly.

I would ask to question the various assumptions inherent in the proposal to relocate, and reject it.


Proposed Sidford Business Park removed from Local Plan

By a narrow margin of, we are told, 18 votes to 13, District Councillors at today’s Extra Ordinary meeting at Knowle, have decided to drop the controversial proposal for a 12 acre employment site at Sidford Fields.

Congratulations and thanks to Sidmouth Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman for proposing the amendment. As a recent commentator on this blog noted recently, Cllr Troman had already argued strongly at the Development Management Committee, that the Sidford site was not justified by the council’s own formulae.

And much credit must also be given to SOS member Marianne Rixson, whose extensive research on flooding and traffic issues was presented to the Inspector at the Examination-in-Public of the previous Local Plan. Her work has solidly informed the debate.

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‘Open Space’ issues in the relocation debate

As described by SOS member, Peter Whitfield, in his speech to the Full Council last night (25th mMrch) :

Councillors, I refer to paras 6.14 to 6.20 of the DCEO’s report.
On 1st March 2013 the DMC refused OPA 12/1847. Two key reasons given were loss of parkland and proximity of the development boundary to the listed summer house on the site.
The application had shown the development line as the top edge of a path leading towards the Depot area in defiance of the extant Local Plan which showed it to follow the footprint of the current building. That line is still the one in force until the revised local plan which you are considering tomorrow is approved by Mr Thickett.
I would ask you to reinstate that line and reject the one before you in today’s relocation submission. The development extension onto the upper terraces has never been properly debated by full Council. – indeed whenever it has been raised by the public, discussion has been curtailed – one example being at your meeting on 24 July 2013 when a public speaker did refer to this issue as it was part of a parcel of 18 sets of Minutes being nodded through. But Cllrs Cope and Bloxham moved “next business”.
All officer reports on this issue refer only to the quantity of the open space at risk and in language designed to emphasise how small the loss is (although some might think 14% is not inconsiderable) – no mention is ever made of its relative quality. Data derived from snapshot studies of usage have been used to justify the appropriation of open space purportedly to show that the Knowle site is no longer required for the purpose of public walks or as a pleasure ground.
But this data was collected between 2 years and 16 months ago and frankly the four comparator sites are ludicrous and one does not even exist! – my time does not allow explanation. The top terraces are what give the great vista to the sea and over the parkland and trees below and set off whatever building they sit beneath.
Today’s boundary is drawn just six feet from the Grade 2 listed folly and to the feature marked by the edge of a bank and the path to the depot – although the Planning Policy Manager responding to comments from the public told DMC’s July 2013 meeting that “it would not be appropriate for a Local plan to refer to measurements of site/development boundaries from given features”. This appropriation based on that emergent Local Plan cites no measurements – only lines on a diagram drawn to match specific features.
I ask that in the interests of giving due recognition of the value of quality of open space over quantity you redraw the development line for appropriation to that of the extant local plan on Inset Map 48.

( it does not say what part of the Knowle was surveyed – it was probably just the top two terraces. But the vista provided from Station Road and by the approach up the drive is beautified by the sweeping grassy banks of the car parks – not much walked upon but definitely appreciated as part of the view and certainly seen by more people than cited in the table)


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