One of the questions from the public is copied below, with permission More to follow shortly.
Members will of course be aware of the Special Development Management Committee meeting for this Friday 1 March, which will be looking to determine the Councils own Outline Planning Application for the Knowle.
It will also come as no surprise that your Planning Officers have recommended approval; however, the Officers Report is seriously flawed with many significant omissions and contains statements that have no legitimate evidence or basis for inclusion in a planning appraisal. As a result this Report is misleading and will be challenged and properly examined in the almost inevitable Judicial Review that will follow.
This hugely controversial planning application has arisen as a result of your Leadership and Cabinet’s stated and blinkered “ambition” to relocate these offices to Honiton. The principle of whether or not the Council should, could or will relocate will not be decided by the full Council, yourselves, until later in the year.
Surely the principle of this “ambition” should have been debated by the full council at the outset, before this “Relocation Project” was established and huge sums of public money spent, it is likely that this project will have incurred costs in the region of £0.5M before this debate even takes place!
You might have decided that a professional appraisal of the cost of making the present site “fit for purpose” should have been included in the project and examination of options to raise the necessary finance such as the sale of the Honiton site.
You might have been given the opportunity of considering whether this “ambition” is in conflict with the role of this Council which is to maintain the social and economic viability of all the towns and communities within East Devon.
The presence of EDDC headquarters makes a significant contribution to the economy of Sidmouth, if it is relocated the economic impact will be severe. The original Planning Officers Report concedes that this site would not attract businesses other than one serving the local community and employing local people such as the Council.
Honiton should have no trouble in attracting new employment opportunities in the future, from an employer’s perspective it is much better placed than a coastal location. The Council has a different responsibility than a commercial business. The economy of Sidmouth is a lot more fragile than many believe and your relocation could be a significant tipping point.
My question to the members is; should you be pressing for the principle of this relocation “ambition” to be debated now before further vast sums of public money are spent?
Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce