Knowle sale fear

SIR - What is the essence of Sidmouth that attracts us? It has a pretty sea front, a theatre, a cinema, but above all lots of green park spaces; the Byes, the Knowle, the Triangle and many more. And it is the sense of this open ‘greenness’ which pervades Sidmouth that gives our little town its singular character.

However; now I hear increasingly loud murmurs about selling the Knowle for development and the construction of perhaps 50 houses. Why are they doing this, we ask? Well, the Knowle is not fit for purpose. We, however, are not persuaded. After all, most old buildings have drawbacks. Does this mean we should sell them all off to the first buyer who comes along with plans for 50 houses or how about 60 houses; better yet make it 70 houses.

This would increase the profit margin for the seller (East Devon District Council) and for the developers but sadly not for the workers, the walkers, the residents, and the rabbits.

Who will give planning permission for 50, 60 or 70 houses to be built in our taxpayer park? It seems this is not a problem - planning permission can be almost automatically granted by EDDC - the very same sellers. Is this not a classic conflict of interest, I ask?

So, back to the proposal to sell the Knowle. What is the EDDC planning to do with all the money they will have upon completion of sale? EDDC will have no problem in spending the money because EDDC has a site in Honiton which could be, for a price, developed into a suitable office building. But, what is it that we hear from the 300 or so disgruntled employees working at the Knowle?

Their opinion is that the site in Honiton is remote and inconvenient. There is talk of a shuttle bus to get them into the town centre and additional branch offices to be built in Exmouth and Seaton and indeed in Sidmouth.

Would the money from the sale of the Knowle be sufficient? Probably not, particularly if the property already owned in Honiton is unsuitable and another property has to be purchased in the centre of town and altered to make it fit for purpose. All very costly ...and we all become irate ratepayers.

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In view of these problems, would it not be more financially prudent to make a few alterations to the existing facility at the Knowle in order to make it less expensive to run.

For example, if the EDDC would grant permission for updates such as a new heating system, or solar panels, then the cost and disruption of relocating the EDDC office could be avoided.

Could it be that the EDDC is not considering an upgrade to the existing building because their specific goal is to sell the Knowle?

Considering the amount of opposition to this draft proposal, it is apparent that the citizens do not want this development. Localism and democracy demands that EDDC heed their electorate and, instead of pushing changes no one wants, they should consider a plan that would enhance our town for the present and the future.

For example they could create a plan for an arboretum and a village green. This decision would also dispel the contention that EDDC simply wants to sell the Knowle.

If we are able to keep the Knowle as part of the jewel in the crown that is Sidmouth, we will all benefit from the recognition of our unique and special place, as will all those tourists who visit in winter and summer.

Helen Crackston

Fairpark, Knowle Drive, Sidmouth