Save Our Sidmouth

Chief Executive sheds new light on Knowle

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The following press release from Save Our Sidmouth has been sent out today, 20th November,2014. It coincides with Richard Cohen’s verbal report on office relocation, to this afternoon’s Audit and Governance Committee (2.30pm, Knowle).

‘The relocation proposals put forward by East Devon District Council have frustrated and angered residents of the District. The process has been mishandled from the outset, beset by errors, poor decision-making and an obsession with secrecy. This culminated in the disastrous and abortive Knowle planning application, and the absurd choice of Skypark as the location for new headquarters. Approaching a million pounds of public money has been spent, and there is nothing to show for it.

It is therefore a pleasant surprise that common sense has broken out at EDDC with the recognition, at last, by the Chief Executive, of the impending reorganisation of local government. At a meeting of the Sidmouth Mens Forum (30/10/2014), Mr. Williams reportedly stated: “ if and when there is a reorganisation of local government, possibly towards one large unitary authority for Devon – it would be located in the county’s central city .” Mr. Williams is right: in the event of a Devon-wide unitary authority, the HQ will be in Exeter, at County Hall, not at Knowle, or for that matter Skypark, which would be a (possibly £20 million) white elephant.

The Chief Executive went on to say that in the event of reorganisation, the Knowle will be sold, and he may be right again. However, a unitary authority will also involve the devolving of considerable powers to a lower tier authority, in this case, Sidmouth Town Council. Woolcombe House, the present home of STC, would not be a suitable building to accommodate these additional functions, whereas the Knowle would be an obvious new home for the expanded Town Council, combined with an exciting opportunity to develop community facilities and a park-and-ride.

The future of the Knowle should be decided by those who will represent us in the future, rather than by a hapless and dysfunctional District Council going through its death throes.

Mark Williams’ comments are therefore a very welcome recognition of the reality of the situation: EDDC is probably finished and long term decisions concerning the future of the Knowle are best left to the successor authorities.’

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