Councillors call for refurbishments at Port Royal after scaled-back vision revealed

The Sidmouth Lifeboat station, sailing club and Drill Hall at Port Royal

The Sidmouth Lifeboat station, sailing club and Drill Hall at Port Royal - Credit: Archant

Civic leaders are calling for Sidmouth Sailing Club and the seafront toilets to be refurbished as part of a scaled-back vision to regenerate Port Royal.

A scoping study for the site revealed numerous constraints so East Devon District Council (EDDC) is focusing its attention on marketing the Drill Hall, meaning it could become a bar or restaurant.

Sidmouth Town Council wants to see the neighbouring premises brought up to scratch – a desire shared by Sidmouth Sailing Club bosses, who say the uncertainty about their future has left them in ‘turmoil’.

Speaking at a meeting on Monday, Councillor Paul Wright said: “That part of Sidmouth has been an eyesore for a long time. We asked the consultant to look at all the options, but for some reason his focus was on one thing – putting a massive block up. We have missed an opportunity – if we just do the Drill Hall, everything else will be left to deteriorate.”

While the scoping study was under way, campaigners formed a group to ‘retain, refurbish and reuse’ the buildings at Port Royal.

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Cllr Ian Barlow said: “Just shouting about it doesn’t solve anything. Finding a solution takes leadership and cooperation. The Three Rs group have done all the talking – now let’s see some action.”

Cllr Louise Cole suggested that EDDC should transfer the Drill Hall to the community as ‘recompense for the decision about Knowle’. She emphasised the importance of the Neighbourhood Plan and said the development could include a community space, but members warned against ‘diluting’ the offering in the town’s other venues.

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Cllr Michael Earthey proposed that marketing of the Drill Hall is delayed until after March 1, when the draft Neighbourhood Plan is due to be put out to consultation. He said doing so would stop any developer claiming it is only ‘emerging’ and ignoring the policies it contains.

Town clerk Christopher Holland said: “We can request what we like, but it will be EDDC to make up their own minds. We wanted to get involved, and we took a lot of flak for that. We heard what the public had to say, and dare I say EDDC have heard as well. EDDC has to look at the whole district. They want a return on their money. We have to make sure we are still in the room.”

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