Sidmouth mum outlines community bid to buy and restore old Drill Hall

PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:55 18 September 2018

Gillian Mitchell pictured by the derelict drill hall on the Esplande at Port Royal. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Gillian Mitchell pictured by the derelict drill hall on the Esplande at Port Royal. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Picture: Alex Walton Photography

People in Sidmouth are joining forces to launch a community bid to buy the Drill Hall.

Gillian Mitchell has set up a not-for-profit community interest company (CIC) called Sidmouth Sunrise as part of a bid to transform the space into a community hub.

The mum-of-two says she wanted to take on the project to tackle a gap in facilities in the town.

Gillian told the Herald: “The strength of community feeling within Sidmouth is what makes our town and local area a vibrant place to live in.

“The worrying thing is that we have no significant population of young single people, which implies that the youngsters are moving away when they leave education.

“We want to do something to increase the attractiveness of Sidmouth to this age group and encourage a more balanced population and create a sustainable vibrant community.

“We are serious about what we are doing. We really want to make sure that we have it right; we have to make sure this is feasible.”

Sidmouth Sunrise has also gained backing from Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) of Plymouth, which will serve as a consultant and funding partner.

Gillian says RIO has ‘vast experience’ in breathing new life into redundant buildings to bring them to community use and will be able to provide support and advice to manage their own projects.

Sunrise Sidmouth has carried out a structural survey and is consulting architects about final designs, before holding public meetings.

Gillian, who is chairman of the organisation, says she is looking to work collaboratively to put in the strongest bid to Exeter-based agent JLL.

She said: “We’re not aware of any other community bids that are being put together and if there is, my group would like to work together rather than have multiple community bids.

“We are really up to talking to anybody and get behind one bid.

“We’re not going to please everybody, and it is quite a small space. I do not want to be in competition with my own community.

“If we are successful with our bid, all funds and profits will be reinvested into securing the future of the Drill Hall and future similar projects.”

EDDC has given community groups six months to develop their ideas. The commercial property sector will have three months to prepare their proposals, with all bids to be submitted to JLL by February 4.

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