BREAKING NEWS: Knowle proposal is postponed due to ‘data error’
AN OUTLINE planning application for re-development of East Devon District Council’s main office site at Knowle, Sidmouth, has been withdrawn from the agenda of a meeting to be held next week due to the discovery of inaccurate data in a vital report.
The application by EDDC as landowner was to have been discussed by the planning authority’s Development Management Committee (DMC) on Tuesday 4 December. It is now expected that the committee will consider the application with a revised report on 8 January, following a further public consultation on the data issue.
The delay has been caused because an Economic Impact Assessment, prepared by external consultants Peter Brett Associates, has been found to be based on inaccurate figures for the number of staff at Knowle who live in the Sidmouth area.
There was a problem with the raw data supplied by the applicant to the consultants and as a result the planning authority has advised – as it would with any planning application – that the assessment needs to be reviewed before the proposal is discussed by Members.
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The original figure supplied to the Consultants was 80. It has since been found that the number is just over 100, taking into account all parts of Sidmouth, including Sidford and Sidbury.
This difference in the raw data means that the economic impact assessment needs to be re-drawn based on the higher figure. This is likely to show a slightly higher estimation of loss of jobs over the ten-year period following the move, should permission be granted and the new offices built.
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The discrepancy came to light when EDDC carried out a further check of the figures supplied to its consultants following a local challenge.
EDDC Deputy Chief Executive Richard Cohen said: “It’s much better that this error is spotted and rectified now rather than further down the line. I think it’s important that if we make an honest mistake we should say so publicly. That is the only way to retain the public’s trust in what we are doing”.
The delay means there will have to be a further public consultation dealing with the revised report. This will be available early next week, with comments to be made by 17 December. All previous comments will be retained and do not need to be re-submitted.
The proposal to re-develop the Knowle site to provide around 50 new homes and a graduated care home was submitted to the planning authority by the Council acting as applicant and landowner in August. It’s part of a wider plan to sell the site at Knowle and use the proceeds for cost-neutral purpose built utility offices in Honiton. Following a three-week consultation period, it was due to be considered by the DMC on 4 December, with a recommendation by Planning Officers to approve.
Those same Planning Officers have now advised the applicant that the incorrect data has material implications for the application. They say: “Information has come to light that the Economic Impact Assessment Report prepared by Peter Brett Associates is based on incorrect data with regard to the number of the Council’s employees that are based at Knowle and live in Sidmouth.
“We would therefore appreciate it if you could provide us with a revised Economic Impact Assessment report which takes account of this discrepancy, ensuring that employees from all of the different areas of Sidmouth have been included and stating as much in the report for clarity.
“As you will appreciate, the report is a fundamental part of the supporting documents to this application and the identified error makes a significant material difference to our consideration of the application. As long as the report is submitted by noon on Monday 3 December it should be possible to present this matter to the Development Management Committee on 8 January 2013 and this is now our aim”.
The revised report, once completed, will be available on EDDC’s website early next week (w/c 3 December). People can submit comments online or write to the Development Management Team at Knowle quoting 12/1847/MOUT.