Plea for EDDC to stay put at Knowle

Friday, December 6, 2013
8:00 AM

East Devon Alliance (EDA) campaigners have called for East Devon District Council (EDDC) to set a ‘flagship example’ by remaining in Sidmouth and revamping its existing HQ.

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Protesters have branded multi-million pound proposals for the authority to relocate from Knowle as financially ‘dubious’ and a ‘gamble’ with taxpayers’ cash.

Shortlisted sites for a new HQ for EDDC are in Cranbrook, Skypark, Winslade Park and Honiton.

The council says each has to fulfil six criteria including ‘financial viability’, being accessible to all and environmentally friendly.

The EDA feels that existing Knowle buildings ‘already meet some of these criteria, and could be adapted to fit the rest’.

“EDDC could avoid the financial risk of relocation, by aiming at a successful flagship example of retrofitting the newer Knowle buildings, funded by the sale of the former Knowle hotel,” said EDA chairman Ian McKintosh.

An EDDC spokesman said the authority has reviewed the future of Knowle compared to relocation options ‘in depth and detail using independent professional advice’.

He added: “It is unclear as to where Mr McKintosh finds the equivalent evidence or professional advice to support his oft-repeated allegations.

“The council has already decided, on the evidence, that relocation is the preferred way forward for its cost-effectiveness, a more flexible future and for the district as a whole.

“The council is prepared to take the right decisions in tough times. Relocation from Knowle is part of a bigger picture of responding to changes in local government funding and continuing to deliver good services to our residents across the whole district.

“This council has frozen its council tax for the last four years and is committed to a relocation that doesn’t add to the cost.

“The ‘gamble’ would be to remain at Knowle and repair, refurbish and/or rebuild without making enough money by selling the site.

“A principle that runs through this process is of detailed and careful risk management.

“One of the biggest risks - to which the EDA and others seem wilfully oblivious - is the risk of staying at Knowle in terms of cost and efficiency issues for the council.”

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