EDDC relocation reaches ‘debt milestone’ - Sidmouth councillor

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

The final green light for East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) £10million relocation project has been celebrated by the authority – but dubbed a ‘milestone for debt’ by one critic.

Members have backed the ‘go now’ option, which will see construction start on a new HQ at Honiton’s Heathpark, ‘uncoupled’ from the sale of the council’s current Knowle base in Sidmouth.

EDDC will borrow to fund the project and preparatory work will begin shortly.

The refurbishment of its other new HQ, Exmouth Town Hall, is already under way.

Council leader Councillor Paul Diviani said: “This is a milestone for EDDC. After 40 years, we are now moving at last to purpose-built, modern headquarters, and, coupled with the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall, these buildings provide a better environment for the way we want to transform in the future.

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“Most importantly, they will be more accessible for our residents who rely so heavily on the services we provide.

“Knowle has served us well over the years, but the building is no longer fit for purpose for the modern ways of working, which will make us more efficient.”

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PegasusLife has offered £7,505,000 for Knowle, but its plans to develop it into a 113-home retirement community were refused in December.

An EDDC spokeswoman said the site’s sale and ultimate redevelopment will still take place in the future and the capital receipt will then be secured to ‘part-fund’ the relocation. The project’s current budget stands at £10,361,000.

After the approval of the ‘go now’ option, Sidmouth representative Cllr Cathy Gardner said: “I regard this as a milestone for debt – taken on by council tax payers in East Devon.

“Having done a survey that showed how few residents actually go the council offices, they are now saying that the new office will be better because it will be more accessible for residents.

“No matter how you spin this project, it is not residents who will benefit. And few if any of the councillors making these decisions will be around in 20 years when the true costs and ‘savings’ are known.

“We all have to hope that they are right.”

Work on Exmouth Town Hall is forecast to be completed by November this year.

EDDC is expected to relocate to Honiton by December 2018.

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