Questions raised over Knowle sale ‘delay’

The Knowle council chambers at Sidmouth. Picture by Terry Ife. Ref mhv 2232-10-07TI

The Knowle council chambers at Sidmouth. Picture by Terry Ife. Ref mhv 2232-10-07TI - Credit: Archant

The £7.5million sale of Knowle will be completed by Christmas council chiefs have said, amid claims of delays.

In 2018 PegasusLife won a planning appeal, gaining permission to demolish the building to create a 113-home retirement community, but it has not yet taken ownership.

While the deal is being completed, East Devon District Council is sharing the cost of maintaining the building with the buyer, which last week merged with two other developers to form Lifestory.

Questions were raised about the 'delays' to the completion of the deal at a meeting of Sidmouth Town Council on Monday (October 7) - but the district council said there are no delays.

Councillor Kelvin Dent, chairman of the Knowle residents association, told the meeting the association was told in May that four deadlines relating to the sale had been missed.

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Cllr Dent told the meeting: "The delay in completing the sale of the offices at Knowle is causing a bit of concern and worry locally - and not least because of worries who is going to be responsible for security and who is responsible for maintaining the property and when the building works may start.

"What is the reason for the delay?

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"When will the sale be completed and what is the financial consequences?

"In other words, are EDDC and the council taxpayers out of pocket because of the delays?"

Cllr Stuart Hughes said while the council has retained possession of the building it has carried out asbestos survey work and worked to clear its contents.

He read out a message he had received from Richard Cohen, EDDC's deputy chief executive, who said PegasusLife is 'committed' to purchasing the building.

The message reads: "I cannot account for your correspondent's statement that PegasusLife advised the residents' association that deadlines have been missed since there is neither deadlines that we are aware of nor delay. We ensured that tasks in relation to the building are completed and the timeline for completion and payment has been confirmed with PegasusLife. As already explained, East Devon are progressing toward completion of the sale and that will happen before this Christmas. PegasusLife are in contract and committed to purchase at the agreed base price which will also attract an additional payment covering indexation and uncommitted Section 106 monies."

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