OPEN LETTER TO EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL
We, the undersigned, welcome the recent decision by the EDDC’s Development Management Committee to reject EDDC’s own Planning Application to develop the Knowle. This demonstrates realism and a victory for common sense. We hope that EDDC will now move on from this disastrous episode.
We are not against EDDC occupying smaller and less costly offices; indeed we welcome this as taxpayers. We would support efforts to achieve this on the same site.
However we believe that there are a number of issues arising from the Application that have to be answered by EDDC before continueing. Many arise from EDDC’s closed attitude to public debate and sharing of information. The public need answers to these if any trust is to be placed in EDDC again.
- Who authorised and was responsible for the debacle? Whose “ambition” was it?
- What was the Brief to EDDC officers to prepare an outline planning application for the redevelopment of the Knowle site?
- Why was the Council’s “ambition to relocate to Honiton” not debated by full council, and not supported by a properly costed business plan, before embarking on the costly process of preparing the Application?
- Why did the Council not prepare a feasibility into all the options as is normal business practice?
- Can EDDC explain how, contrary to evidence, they believed that moving to Honiton would be more central for public access?
- Why have the public constantly been refused permission to inspect EDDC offices?
- Can EDDC explain how a saving of £60,000 pa operating costs, (their figures), justifies developing the Knowle and it’s parkland?
- Who proposed and authorised the spending of about £ 0.5m of council funds (payments to Consultants and Officer’s time-costs)?
- In the light of these costs and EDDC’s own estimates for remedial work to the Knowle as being £1m, do EDDC believe that this expenditure was warranted?
- The Application was rejected 3 times after SOS found serious flaws and advised the Planning Authority. What is the Council’s view on the professionalism of the Applicant?
- Why, when the Chairman of the Development Management Committee so specifically and publicly ruled out the issue of relocation as a valid planning consideration, did he then allow Cllrs to argue that the Knowle development be approved because the Council needed the money for its relocation?
- What is the point of local residents donating to the Sidmouth Land Trust for the purchase and maintenance of public open space and buildings, managed by the National Trust, the SVA and others, if these purchases merely provide a pretext for EDDC to sell as “surplus to requirement” open space previously purchased by the public and now entrusted to EDDC, such as the Knowle?
- What is EDDC’s plan for re-location now?
- How does the rejection of the Application affect the Local Plan
We hope that prompt and open answers will be provided by the Council.
The organisations listed below are willing to discuss these issues with EDDC.
Save Our Sidmouth
Sid Vale Association
Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce
Sidmouth Hospitality Association
Sidmouth Futures Forum
Knowle Residents Association