March 25 will be D-day for controversial relocation

Save our Sidmouth group at the Knowle gardens in 2012. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 1477-36-12TI To or

Save our Sidmouth group at the Knowle gardens in 2012. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 1477-36-12TI To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on myphotos24 - Credit: Archant

A final decision on controversial district council plans to sell its Knowle HQ and move away from Sidmouth will be made by the end of March.

A timetable circulated to councillors this week shows that East Devon District Council (EDDC) will hold three meetings next month to determine the fate of its relocation project.

If given the go-ahead, the plans would see Knowle sold to a developer to finance a move to purpose-built facilities at Honiton’s Heathpark and vacant offices at Exmouth Town Hall.

Campaigners have reacted angrily to the news, saying that the council is forcing the plans through before the formal pre-election period, known as purdah, during which no major decisions can be taken.

Richard Thurlow, chairman of Save our Sidmouth (SOS), said: “I think it is a gross affront to the people of the district in that we are not being given any chance to object or further comment.

“We are dismayed and extremely disturbed by the arrogant nature of the district council, who are ramrodding this decision through.”

“And all this is happening despite the fact that there is an election in May, when the make-up of local government may well change.”

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A meeting of EDDC’s cabinet has been brought forward to March 11 for district leaders to consider a final report on the move.

Their recommendation on whether or not to go ahead will then be scrutinised by a joint meeting of two council watchdogs the following day.

A special meeting of the full council is then scheduled for March 25, which will give representatives from across the district a chance to have their say, before a final decision is made.

An EDDC spokesman said the full council meeting needed to take place before the end of March so that the proceedings did not fall inside the purdah period.

He added that, at December’s full council meeting, members had voted against a proposal that the decision should be postponed until after the election.

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