EDDC revives plans to leave Sidmouth
PUBLISHED: 16:15 19 July 2013 | UPDATED: 16:15 19 July 2013
Knowle's future is in the balance once again after East Devon District Council's (EDDC) cabinet unanimously backed plans to look at a move out of Sidmouth.
The authority could leave for Honiton, Cranbrook or another location – but its current HQ’s parkland is set to be offered to Sidmouth Town Council.
Cabinet members said the former hotel is ‘not fit for purpose’ and on Wednesday supported the recommendations of a report on the future viability of their HQ – including pledging a further £114,000 to fund the project.
Council leader Paul Diviani said: “This is the start of the process, not the end.”
Deputy chief executive Richard Cohen, who compiled the report, said: “A new office in a new location is viable – perhaps it is time to move home.”
He said that the price tag of bills alone at Knowle would be £4.8million over a 20-year period, in addition to ‘essential’ maintenance totalling £1.5million.
Mr Cohen described the land as a ‘prime housing site’ that could accommodate up to 63 houses, and the proceeds will help fund the move while protecting the council tax bill.
Cabinet member Councillor David Cox applauded the council’s ‘big step’ towards transparency by deciding to publish ‘as much information as possible’.
“They are positive moves that go a long way towards restoring residents’ trust,” he said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”
EDDC chairman Graham Godbeer added that he was ‘heartened’ to see that the issues which were raised in the very first Knowle relocation meeting were being addressed.
Cllr Douglas Hull said members of the public would be convinced of the need to leave if they saw the confusing corridors and leaky-roofed offices in which the staff have to work.
Deputy leader Andrew Moulding said Knowle is ‘not fit for a modern organisation’ “We shouldn’t be running our council from a converted hotel,” he added.
Cllr Phil Twiss touted the ease and practicality of mobile working and said the council could not stay where it is.
“Most people couldn’t give a fig where we are,” he added.
But Cllr Peter Halse said Knowle is a prestigious building and he is proud to bring people to Sidmouth, arguing ‘it is not necessary to do much at all’.
East Devon Alliance member Mike Temple warned the cabinet that the bills for other councils’ relocation plans had skyrocketed.
Graham Cooper, from the Vision Group for Sidmouth, snubbed the move out of the 1970s building as a ‘vanity project’.
The move is hoped to be completed by July 2016.