Cranbrook move for EDDC?
East Devon District Council could be forced by a government shake-up to move its headquarters out of Sidmouth.
East Devon District Council could be forced by a government shake-up to move its headquarters out of Sidmouth.A likely relocation would be the Cranbrook new town, writes Kingsley Squire.Such a move, although some way off, would place a huge question mark on the future of The Knowle, exposing the building and grounds to the possibility of residential development.Sidmouth could also lose trade and prestige."It would be a sad day," said Chris Taylor, chairman of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce. "Many residents would be sorry to see them go. You see a lot of employees come down into town during lunchtime and after work to shop," he said. A valuable spin-off, however, could be utilising staff car parks as a park and ride to meet the need for parking in the town, especially during the summer.Confirmation that a move from Sidmouth to a more central location was possible came in an EDDC statement to the Herald. It said, while no formal plans were being drawn up, it was being forced to consider possible changes to local government boundaries under a study following Exeter City Council's unsuccessful unitary status bid.This would involve the Boundary Committee looking at retaining or changing the current division of responsibilities between neighbouring councils."Should East Devon find itself faced with becoming part of a 'greater Exeter', or some other amalgamation, it might be sensible for our offices to move to a more central location," the statement said."We are looking at the feasibility of such a move and will feed this information into our submission in due course."Cranbrook as a new location is certainly not discounted, although the preferred option of the council, which considers the changes unwanted, is to stay at Knowle with enhanced working and shared services.But, faced with a set timetable for a review process, it has already made preparations for a working group to consult with other authorities and residents at parish council level before delivering a well-argued case by April.It will be another year at least before final recommendations go to Government for a decision, with the implementation of any change due to take effect in May 2010 or 2011.Councillor Ann Liverton said a move from Sidmouth would probably see a 'satellite' housing office established in the town for the convenience of tenants, similar to one in Exmouth."We are committed to look at all the possibilities," she said. "This is all about sustainability. It is happening all over the country and it is all in the hands of the government. We don't want to change but, if government imposes it on us, we have to be ready to rescue what we can for local people."Town council chairman Tom Cox said it would have a major impact.He was concerned at the question mark over the future of The Knowle. With its car parking and extensive grounds it would constitute Sidmouth's most prestigious site and could be redeveloped into something of which Sidmouth could be proud.