No change of Knowle for a year

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Knowle could be redeveloped for housing or care facilities – but the use of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) HQ can only be changed if there is no buyer for 12 months.

The authority has begun marketing the building that has been its base since the 1970s, together with the Manstone Depot - both currently employment land - as it looks to fund its relocation.

EDDC’s application for 50 homes and a 60-bed care home at Knowle was refused by its own planning committee in 2012, although consultants say the bid shows the authority is open to the site’s redevelopment.

Consultants Heynes Planning have advised prospective buyers that the Local Plan inquiry could affect how any future planning applications are considered as EDDC is looking again its housing need figures.

The current allocation in the plan is for 100 homes in Sidmouth, in addition to a further 50 ‘windfall’ properties.

A planning audit from Heynes Planning said: “The fact that the council has seen fit to allocate the site for housing provides a clear indication that it considers it appropriate to allow the site to be used for an alternative use.

“In our view, this consideration should weigh heavily in favour of a residential scheme being acceptable on this site.”

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It says that depending on the timing of an application, ‘a residential scheme would be entirely consistent with the [local] plan’, while a care home could also marry up with existing and emerging policies.

But Knowle is currently an important job site, and the 2012 plans were refused in part because of the loss of employment land and the resulting ‘significant detrimental impact’ on Sidmouth’s economy.

EDDC now argues its offices are ‘unfit for purposes’ and would be unattractive to any future occupier.

Knowle will need to be marketed for at least 12 months at a realistic price without interest before a change of use can be considered, according to a council report.

EDDC is offering its base and Manstone Depot by informal tender and has not revealed the price it hopes to get.