Knowle to become homes?

EAST Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Knowle headquarters in Sidmouth is be likely to be sold to housing developers and a care home operator if the authority decides to re-locate to Honiton.

EDDC chief executive Mark Williams also didn’t rule out the possibility of the hub becoming a hotel again when he revealed details on the proposed re-location to town traders on Wednesday.

He told Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce members that no decision had been made, but a three-pronged investigation was under way to:

l Establish the value of the site and form a planning application to determine its future use;

l Ascertain whether the sale of Knowle can generate enough funds to build new premises in Honiton.;

l And, whether there will also be enough cash to invest in Exmouth Town Hall to boost EDDC’s presence there.

Mr Williams said the outcome of the trio of projects will determine whether the proposed move is viable and whether it goes ahead.

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A decision is expected by June next year – with a potential re-location pencilled in for summer 2014.

“The button that says ‘go’ hasn’t been pressed,” said Mr Williams.

“I don’t want to be the chief executive accused of costing the tax-payer money by re-locating. Whatever we do has to wash its own face.”

Mr Williams said Knowle was a “unique” and “magical” place and added: “It will go on the open market.

“We’re trying to establish the most optimum form of planning permission possible. At the moment the suggestion is it would be housing and some sot of employment facility, probably one related to a care home or that type of thing.

“A hotel might come out of the woodwork. If someone came forward for that purpose, and it was something more advantageous, then we would go for that. But, that’s not the advice we’re getting.”

He added Knowle’s status as an employment site means the creation of jobs would have to be factored into plans for the land, and a consultation will look at any re-location’s impact on Sidmouth and its traders.

Mr Williams said any funds remaining from the sale of Knowle would leave “scope for investment” in other parts of Sidmouth – such as Port Royal and Pennington Point.

His understanding was the site’s public areas, enjoyed by many, would be maintained.