'Drill Hall must not hinder future plans at Port Royal'

PUBLISHED: 12:07 15 October 2014

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW

Archant

The owner of Sidmouth's Drill Hall says the premises must fit into a 'comprehensive renewal' of Port Royal - but no master plan yet exists for the area.

That is the message from East Devon District Council (EDDC) after claims from campaigner Matt Booth that it cannot see beyond its demolition and a complete overhaul of the eastern town.

Mr Booth said it will take years before the council even considers the work, but a basic renovation of the hall could pave the way for the redevelopment of the whole of Port Royal.

“They are not interested in our ideas – they can’t see it any other way [than the Drill Hall’s demolition],” he said.

“They don’t know what they are going to do or how they are going to fund it.”

Mr Booth met with EDDC deputy chief executive Richard Cohen and Sidmouth town clerk Christopher Holland last month to discuss the Drill Hall’s future.

It was given a stay of execution last March and the council gave campaigners until next May to draw up a business plan.

Mr Booth wants to see the Drill Hall reopened, hosting community events, teaching traditional skills and staying in place to preserve Sidmouth’s fishing heritage.

But he said EDDC met him with a flat rejection at his request to survey the building and told him there was ‘absolutely no way we would get the keys’.

He challenged the council to admit it has no master plan for Port Royal – and it has done just that.

“Sidmouth Town Council and the district council are in agreement that there needs to be a well-designed plan for the wider area,” an EDDC spokesman told the Herald.

“We have always said that Mr Booth’s proposals would be made available to a prospective developer capable of delivering comprehensive renewal of Port Royal.

“The drill hall site needs to fit into that broader strategy not hinder it, but while such a plan is not in place, the councils do not consider it is worthwhile or practical for anyone to invest in the building or try to re-use it.

“It would be essential that any renewal would need to be appropriate to Sidmouth.”

Premier Inn’s redevelopment of Exmouth’s Elizabeth Hall was cited as one of the examples of regeneration EDDC is delivering.

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