Developer reveals hopes for Knowle

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7701-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7701-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A developer with exclusive rights to buy Knowle has spoken publicly of its plans for the first time - insisting it has no intention of creating a ‘gated community’.

Pegasus Life last week confirmed non-residents would have access to the site’s picturesque upper terraces – which were controversially ‘appropriated’ by East Devon District Council (EDDC) earlier this year.

But the 4.7-acre EDDC site is unlikely to include any affordable housing and the planned apartments would only be available to over 55s.

Emma Webster, public policy manager for Pegasus, told a Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce business breakfast on Wednesday (October 14) that the company did not want to ‘create a community that is isolated from the wider community’.

She said: “There is no desire to create a gated community. There is no fence that is going to be going up.

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“We are not looking at creating areas that are blocked-off.”

Miss Webster said the exact number of homes was yet to be decided – although EDDC has previously said the scheme is likely to accommodate ‘around 100 people’ – but the type of accommodation would be ‘one-and two-bedroom apartments for the over 55s’.

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She said the apartments would cater for residents with a range of care needs, ‘from low level right up to dementia that does not require a secure environment’.

“If we are successful, the people most likely to move into the development will be local people,” added Miss Webster.

The meeting heard that the scheme would feature ‘wellness’ facilities, which at Pegasus’s other developments have included things like swimming pools and café /restaurants.

These facilities could be open to the public, Miss Webster said, as well as providing a ‘wide range’ of jobs for the town.

She said the firm would be committed to playing a part in the community in the long-term - and this would begin with using local labour and speaking with the area’s schools and colleges with a view to providing apprenticeships.

But businessman Richard Eley questioned what Pegasus had to gain by buying Knowle’s upper terraces if it planned to allow public access anyway.

“I just can’t see what’s in it for you,” he said.

“What a thing to do, if you were to say to the people of Sidmouth ‘we’re not going to have that land after all’ - because that is the biggest reason why everyone has been so angry.”

At a newly-finished Pegasus development in Bude, Cornwall, one-bedroom apartments start at £300,000, and two-bedroom accommodation is priced from £600,000.

The company hopes to unveil its vision for the Knowle site at a public exhibition towards the end of November.

The company has exchanged contracts with EDDC to buy the site for between £7million and £8million.

However, this offer is conditional on it securing planning permission.

EDDC plans to use the proceeds of the sale to fund its relocation to purpose-built facilities in Honiton and refurbished offices at Exmouth Town Hall.

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