Knowle demolition wins officer support

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle - Credit: Archant

Plans to demolish the council offices at Knowle and build a 113-apartment retirement community have been recommended for approval.

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle. EDDC planning officers voiced concerns about development onto the te

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle. EDDC planning officers voiced concerns about development onto the terraces and the impact on the listed summerhouse - Credit: Archant

Tuesday (December 6) is decision day for PegasusLife’s application, which has sparked controversy in Sidmouth – opponents claiming the proposals amount to overdevelopment, will worsen flooding, harm the historic parkland and cost neighbouring residents their privacy and the town valuable jobs.

Selling its ‘largely brownfield’ HQ site for £7.5million will help fund East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) widely-derided relocation to Exmouth and Honiton. Progress is already under way in both towns.

PegasusLife is proposing to create 113 assisted-living properties for the over-60s. The authority’s Local Plan only earmarks the site for 50 homes, but planning officers say the ‘extra care’ being proposed is policy compliant.

They have recommended approval of the proposals, subject to a section 106 agreement – a deal to pay community cash to mitigate the impact of the development.

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But the classification as care accommodation rather than housing means PegasusLife will not have to make a contribution towards ‘affordable’ housing.

It will also avoid the community infrastructure levy, a new payment for improvements such as school places, roads and sports pitches.

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PegasusLife’s application focuses on the current building footprint and two car parks, with the remaining parkland set to be transferred from EDDC to Sidmouth Town Council.

Planning officers noted residents’ concerns about the scale and massing of the proposed buildings, but said the Devon Design Review Panel found the scheme – which also features a restaurant and wellbeing suite that may open to the public – to be a ‘very good example of modern architecture’.

They were more concerned about building onto the terraces to the south of the former hotel and the impact on a grade II-listed summerhouse. They said the development could only be approved if councillors judged that the public benefits outweighed the harm to the historic property.

Residents have also voiced fears about the flood mitigation measures being proposed, but the officers said neither this, nor issues around trees, bat roosts or lighting, were grounds for refusal.

In their report to EDDC’s development management committee (DMC), the officers concluded: “Although the scheme is a departure from the Local Plan, providing apartments with extra care in excess of the allocation or requirements of the plan, it therefore makes a meaningful contribution to housing delivery on a largely brownfield site. Together with the other public benefits identified in the report, it is considered that the public benefits outweigh the harm to the listed building, notwithstanding the considerable importance and weight that this harm has been given.”

The DMC meeting starts at 10.30am.

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