Just a few points

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- Credit: Archant

In response to your articles over the past two editions of the Herald on the future of the Drill Hall, we would like very much to thank the many people for all the support we have had as a result.

We would like to thank local young artist Alex Vick for his time and effort producing drawings that would certainly seem to have achieved their desired aim, whether they become a reality or not, of showing people past the building’s current worn out exterior and to what it could potentially become as an alternative to demolition.

We would also like to thank the Herald for its clear, concise and accurate representation of what we hope to achieve and why.

Thanks also is due to Mark Williams and EDDC for dropping their application to demolish the building, and thereby both giving the community of Sidmouth the opportunity to be properly involved in the future of the last area of the seafront yet to be developed and, by doing so, to remove, for now at least, the threat of demolition and the potentially disastrous impact it would have on Sidmouth Trawlers and the Bagwell family.

We did agree to respond to Sidmouth Town Council and Stuart Hughes’ statement as reported on p26 of the Herald last week.


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We would prefer not to say too much as we believe that, again, their statement does the talking for itself, but we would highlight three points;

1. Mr Hughes says the Drill Hall is “well past its sell by date”. Apparently not, if the exchange between Wessex Cadets and EDDC was anything to go by and we would again challenge him here to produce a surveyor’s report that confirms his statement. Our information, which took over a year of constant pressure to get, says otherwise and it would seem from both the tiny amount of asbestos that turned out to be in the building and EDDC’s willingness to put off demolition, at least until we have had a chance to put forward an alternative use, confirms that the building is not condemned and with vision, work, and respect for the residents of and visitors to Sidmouth, it is, in fact, ready for a new lease of life.

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2. Mr Hughes says, “we would like to see a master plan for the whole area.” So would we, and all those that we have spoken to! Nothing of the sort has even remotely come forward at any point from STC in many years. Maybe now it will.

3. Mr Hughes and STC, as custodians of the Ham and the Port Royal and the entire land that was given ‘to the people of Sidmouth’ by George Radford, have had some 40-plus years to, as he says “discuss a future use for Port Royal” and “achieve it”.

We do not have the power that he has and, as with the nearby ‘Fish Wall’ it has taken residents to act themselves to create and realise some real vision for Sidmouth.

Importantly, Sidmouth Trawlers do not have the threat of being surrounded by rubble and utter chaos hanging over them.

Mr Hughes has not, at any point, just as with any EDDC councillors or officers, visited Sidmouth Trawlers to ask them their opinion of the Drill Hall or discuss any other matter linked or not linked to it with them, be it the sea groynes and their effect on coastal erosion or anything else. Generally in life, it is the people that spend every day in a certain area of work that are better placed to comment, and have the first hand knowledge that often when it is too late was essential.

Sidmouth Folk Festival had its licence to hold concerts and dances in the Drill Hall revoked in strange and unexplained circumstances in 1994, nearly 20 years ago. We can assume there to have been a reason. There does come a point where, especially under threat from a greater authority such as EDDC, the people of Sidmouth have to take positive and immediate action.

To call the vision for the Drill Hall as created by a recognised young artist in the town and printed in your paper as ‘blinkered’, is at best an unfortunate and misguided insult and most importantly yet another missed opportunity for STC.

As with SOS, if STC truly were representing the people of Sidmouth against EDDC, East Devon Business Forum or anyone else, then there would be no need for the SOS, or their component organisations, to carry out the hard work that they continue to do for all of us.

Nor for us to pick up the pressing need for discussion around the Drill Hall and East Esplanade, for individuals to push our MP and others on the cause of coastal erosion and the fate of Pennington Point, not to mention the cost of the missing shingle, and then perhaps we could get on with the jobs that we are all employed to do and live in a town that we all feel really proud of.

Finally, it is important that, as per what is registered in the Land Registry as to the market value of Sidmouth Drill Hall as paid by EDDC, slightly over £400,000 rather than £600k (download from www.sidmouthdrillhall.com), that it is here noted that if and when EDDC do put it on the open market, as they say for the people of Sidmouth to bid, that it hasn’t suddenly climbed to a market value of several million with appropriate developers ready to place their bids.

All we can say is we tried. All we can do is keep trying.

Matt Booth and Kay Bagwell

Via email

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