Fears we will lose £1.5m cash bonus
- Credit: Archant
A £1.5million promise to Sidmouth looks likely to be broken so affordable housing can be built elsewhere in East Devon – unless representatives fight for it.
The seven-figure ‘Section 106’ settlement was meant to compensate the town’s tourism industry after apartments were built on the site of the fire-damaged Fortfield Hotel.
The final payment to East Devon District Council (EDDC) is due when the last of the Sanditon flats are occupied – but after talking with one of its officers, businessman Richard Eley has cast doubt on whether authority bosses will keep their promise.
“If it was a straight choice between spending on affordable housing outside of Sidmouth or tourism and economy in Sidmouth, then they would spend it outside of Sidmouth,” he told the town council’s tourism and economy meeting on Monday. “She [the EDDC officer] was quite clear that was the instruction she’d had from the chief executive.”
He also said that the tourism and economy allocation was likely to be £300,000.
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Councillor Ian Barlow said: “Weren’t we promised that the money was coming to Sidmouth, and it was ring-fenced because we were losing the hotel?
“This is what our district councillors are supposed to do. It’s our money, now go on and get it.”
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District councillor Chris Wale took umbrage with his colleague’s comments, saying: “We work damn hard behind the scenes and you say get on with it. There’s a process, sir.
“We know what the processes are, but it doesn’t mean to say we get our own way.”
The money is being paid on the 10th, 20th and 27th occupations of the flats – the last of which is likely soon.
Town councillors formed a taskforce last year to discuss how to allocate the cash, hoping that their proactivity would help secure it for Sidmouth.
Residents were invited to have their say, but the final decision will be made by district chiefs.
Cllr Ann Liverton said: “We need to emphasise the importance of economic tourism.
“£300,000 – it’s not a lot. It’s as if the economy doesn’t matter.
“We do need affordable housing, but we won’t if we haven’t got an economy here.”
An EDDC spokesman said no decision would be made until all of the Section 106 payments had been made by the developer.
“Once the final payment has been received, work will begin on investigating the options available,” he added.
“Affordable housing and tourism are certainly two of the main contenders for a share of the funding and it will be for elected members to decide how much is spent where.”