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Council unrest over SkyPark HQ decision

PUBLISHED: 12:30 03 March 2014

The EDDC's current  offices at The Knowle in Sidmouth.

The EDDC's current offices at The Knowle in Sidmouth.

Archant

Almost £1m has been agreed by district chiefs to buy a plot at the SkyPark, near Exeter, the frontrunner for the council’s new HQ.

But the decision made at East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) full council meeting on Wednesday night was preceded with a failed bid to employ an independent surveyor to assess the condition of the Knowle.

Independent councillors said that there was doubt that the Knowle was in the bad state of repair district bosses had led the public to believe.

But council bosses countered by accusing the naysayers of a last minute bid to derail the plans and of ‘conspiracy theories’.

Councillor Roger Giles said: “The costs have rocketed, and the principles behind it have been abandoned. No longer is a central, location but virtually in Exeter.

“Sidmouth’s loss was to be Honiton’s gain, lots of jobs for Honiton, but not now.

“There are some people who are determined to press ahead with what many regard as a vanity project.”

Cllr Ben Ingham said: “I think this is highly irresponsible – I don’t believe you know what you are doing.”

Cllr Claire Wright said: “I have a sneaking suspicion that the sudden shift in goal posts is to avoid a bit of an embarrassment.

“The SkyPark, although it has been marketed for four years (she cited her source as the county council) has only managed to attract two takers – the ambulance service and Eon Energy Centre.”

EDDC leader Paul Diviani said: “Marketed for four years? Where did you get that from? Because it is wrong.

“Marketing has yet to start. While it is not central geographically it is easy to get to.”

He added: “If everyone had actually taken part on the debate on the way through we would have got on further more quickly.

“Some people did not turn up for the briefings so you are not in a position to know everything that is happening.

“The issue of Honiton came up but as things move forward things change and something better crops up.

“We looked Honiton but it came clear that Honiton had an asset we could use in the process.

“The decision was made by cabinet, which was well attended and people took part in the debate – they just didn’t hide away and skulk in the corner.”

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