Save Our Sidmouth

Knowle relocation “far too risky in the current economic climate” .

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Despite indications that its office relocation plan could be an unnecessary and untimely gamble, East Devon District Council persists in its “ambition” to move. At last Friday’s briefing to ‘stakeholders’ , four potential sites were put forward for their proposed new offices.They are: Cranbrook Town Centre; Heathpark, Honiton (former SITA depot); Skypark; and Clyst House, Winslade Park. In response, Save Our Sidmouth has today issued the following press release:

Save our Sidmouth (SOS) attended the 2nd EDDC “Stakeholder meeting on Friday 8th November when EDDC disclosed some of their “thoughts” about their proposed move from the Knowle.

Four sites are being considered, at Honiton, Cranbook, Skypark and Winslade Park (Clyst St Mary).

We are amazed that EDDC is even considering the idea of moving to Winslade Park.

Clyst House was built 1979-80, i.e. a similar date to the ‘modern’ buildings at Knowle. Quite why the modern buildings at Knowle, (and almost the size needed), are ‘not fit for purpose’ when they were specifically built for EDDC, and Clyst House is, when it was built in the same era, for an insurance company, is not clear.

Clyst House is too big, would have to be partially sub-let, and would have to be renovated, an option EDDC are not prepared to consider for Knowle,. Clyst House is less well served by transport services than Knowle, and is of course much less central than Sidmouth.

It does seem to be very odd to be looking at Clyst House while simultaneously dismissing Knowle.

Cranbook and Skypark are similarly far away from the centres of population., and would require large numbers of staff to travel further to work, destroying EDDC arguments for a “green” travel policy. EDDC also admit that they would have to provide “local” representation in various EDCC population centres.

“Centrality” was one of the original reasons for relocating to Honiton, even though Honiton is further from the average East Devon resident than Sidmouth. “Centrality” has now been forgotten as has the principle that any jobs lost in Sidmouth would be taken up by other residents of East Devon.

A move to Clyst House, Cranbrook or Skypark, i.e .much nearer Exeter will dramatically increase the opportunity of jobs for the Exeter population. After ten years, this will take £3 million per annum out of the local economy

EDDC staff do not have a clear idea of their intentions for any future sale of the Knowle. There was confusion between EDDC staff in responding to a question as to whether EDDC intended to commit to the purchase of another site in advance of a legally binding sale of the Knowle. Nor did they seem to know whether the sale of the Knowle would take place before or after the Local Plan had been examined by the Inspector, (probably summer next year). It shows the EDDC’s s inadequate grasp of financial realities and commercialism. This was the downfall of West Dorset, who thought they would sell their offices for £3 million + and in fact achieved £1 million.

SOS opposes any move, believing that EDDC has not done its sums correctly, has not properly assessed the cost of renovations to part of the existing Knowle buildings and that the risk in building a new office, borrowing up to £4.8 m, and paying for the “savings” over a 20 year period is far too risky in the current economic climate.

R J Thurlow
Chair, Save our Sidmouth

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