Councillors get grilling over EDDC relocation

PUBLISHED: 10:21 15 December 2014 | UPDATED: 14:31 15 December 2014

The SVA meeting at the Old Unitarian Chapel

The SVA meeting at the Old Unitarian Chapel

Archant

Sid Valley residents had the chance to quiz district council representatives about their views on the authority's proposed move away from Knowle and the town this week.

Two councillors said that now was not the time to be considering a move, with others voicing the opinion that the current offices are unsuitable.

Most said that they would not vote in favour of the revised relocation plans until more details were available.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is set to meet on Wednesday, December 17, to decide how to proceed with the controversial move, which could now see the authority up sticks to sites in Honition and Exmouth.

Six of the Sid Valley’s seven representatives attended Tuesday’s meeting, organised by the Sid Vale Association (SVA).

Councillor Stuart Hughes was the only member who was unable to attend due to a county council commitment.

Cllr Chris Wale, who represents the Sidmouth Rural ward, told the meeting that EDDC’s current HQ at Knowle is unsuitable, with staff working in areas that were ‘not fit for purpose’.

He said that taxpayers’ money could be better spent on new, purpose-built offices instead of the authority splashing an estimated £15million on refurbishing Knowle.

“The point is, the decision has not been made, more facts and figures have got to be brought in,” added Mr Wale.

Cllr Christine Drew, of the Sidmouth/Sidford ward, said: “Although the wish to stay at the Knowle no longer seems an option, as an elected councillor I want to make sure I get the best result for East Devon.

“So we must remember this - it’s East Devon District Council and not Sidmouth council.

“I’m not saying that I’m voting for it to happen, I’m voting for them to look into it still further.”

Sidmouth Town ward representative, Cllr Sheila Kerridge said that all seven of the Sid Valley’s councillors were working for hard their constituents, adding: “We only want what is best for Sidmouth. I love Sidmouth with a vengeance.

“I don’t want to make change for change’s sake, but things change because they have to evolve, and sometimes they are for the whole area, for East Devon district which we seven haven’t got a say over.”

Cllr Francis Newth, also representing the town ward, said that Sidmouth’s councillors had ‘taken a lot of pain’ over the relocation.

She added: “There is not one of us in our hearts that wants to move from this site [Knowle].

“It will be a sad day for all us councillors when the district council does relocate, but what we have got to focus on now is what plans come forward, and we will be scrutinising them.”

In a statement, Sidmouth/Sidford councillor Mr Hughes said: “I’m not sure that this is the time to be contemplating any move away from Sidmouth as the future of local government is already raising its head.”

“I do believe we could well be looking at a two-tier system becoming the norm with the parish/town councils taking on a greater role.”

Cllr Graham Troman, who represents the Sidmouth/Sidford ward, told the meeting that he was not yet convinced by the financial details that were available.

“I’ve got no problem if they make the case for East Devon, not Sidmouth, then we’re going to have a hard job to oppose that - but they haven’t made that case.

“I would propose that we take 12 months, defer it for 12 months, before we make any decisions. Let’s wait to see what the next government does.”

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