Drill Hall facts


We feel it is imperative that someone puts the record straight about several aspects of the position regarding the Drill Hall in Sidmouth before a lot of people start chasing hares, so to speak.

In his letter (re:The real issue going on here... Herald, Friday, May 2) Matt Booth makes some less than accurate statements about the site of the Drill Hall. He also seems intent on stacking fears about the intentions of those involved.

So, for the record, here are the real facts about ownership of the Drill Hall site and neighbouring properties, as well as a perhaps less strident appraisal of the current situation:

Complete lack of transparency in the decision making – incorrect. Both EDDC and Sidmouth Town Council were open and clear about their aspirations for the hall as part of the wider regeneration of Port Royal. This included joint press releases where appropriate.

No plan ready for the area in its place (nor has there ever been) – incorrect. The hall stands within an area scheduled by EDDC for regeneration under a yet-to-be-agreed masterplan for Port Royal. The work done so far towards this aim is well documented – although it’s true that as yet there is no agreed proposal for the precise shape of any redevelopment project.

[The Hall] sits on land held in trust by the town council for the people of Sidmouth – incorrect. The hall and the land it sits on are the property of EDDC, which bought the site from the Ministry of Defence as part of a deal in which a new Cadet HQ was built at Stowford Rise, Sidmouth, at EDDC’s expense.

Post demolition, the space would apparently have become a small car park...not correct either. There was a suggestion that if the hall were demolished for safety reasons the empty site could be used as a temporary boat park by the sailing club. This didn’t happen because the hall was not demolished pending consideration of Mr Booth’s proposals.

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There also seems to be a suggestion in the letter that the site rented by Sidmouth Trawlers and other fishermen is owned by EDDC. This is also not the case as in fact this plot of land is held in trust and by Sidmouth Town Council. The implication of the letter is that Mr Booth has attempted [unsuccessfully] to maintain a dialogue with EDDC. In fact, both EDDC’s chief executive and deputy chief executive have met and corresponded with Mr Booth on a number of occasions and have given him time to submit his own proposals for the Drill Hall.

Whilst Mr Booth may not have succeeded in moving his proposals forward, that is not the same as us having no dialogue. Both councils have a strong desire to see properly organised renewal of a part of Sidmouth that falls short of the town’s justifiable renown for seaside elegance.

Perhaps it would be useful to have a further meeting with Mr Booth to explore matters of common interest rather than kicking off a debate in the letters page of the local paper in what can only be described as an antagonistic style.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, EDDC cabinet member for Strategic Development and Partnerships.

Councillor John Hollick, chairman, Sidmouth Town Council.