‘Dismay’ at office plan on Sidmouth site allocated for affordable homes

EDDC's Manstone Depot Ref shs 2762-15-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Manstone Depot Ref shs 2762-15-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A campaigner is ‘dismayed’ that district chiefs look set to approve plans for offices on a site once earmarked for much-needed ‘affordable’ housing.

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Manstone Depot is allocated for 20 homes in its Local Plan – but now the authority wants to keep its estates department in Sidmouth when it relocates to Exmouth and Honiton.

Its development management committee (DMC) has been recommended to approve the plans for a single-storey office block when it meets on Tuesday (January 10).

Jeremy Woodward, who has campaigned for transparency in the relocation project, said: “I am dismayed about what seems to be EDDC’s disregard for its own Local Plan – and promises of affordable housing which is much needed in Sidmouth.

“This application is clearly very sensitive.

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“Firstly, it is on a site reserved for housing in the Local Plan; and secondly, it is clearly part of the ‘larger picture’ of the district council’s relocation project.”

Mr Woodward submitted a Freedom of Information request in 2014 which revealed that EDDC’s housing service had made two conditional offers to build 25 homes on the Manstone Depot site. One had a mix of market and ‘affordable’ homes; the other was fully ‘affordable’.

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The report to DMC members says the offices will be limited to one section of the site and housing could still be delivered on the remaining area. It adds, the departure from the Local Plan is not grounds to refuse the application.

The office building would act as a ‘hub’ for operations that already largely take place from the depot, which is used by the StreetScene team and for storage, adds the report.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “The consolidation of Knowle Depot activities to our existing site at Manstone is an opportunity that results as part of the relocation project.

“The transfer of depot activities is an existing costed element of the relocation project and, as such, included within the independent and positive cost modelling of relocation.

“Manstone Depot continues to provide a base for a range of important services to Sidmouth and the wider district.”

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