Redevelopment blow for Simouth's Port Royal

THE redevelopment of The Ham s Port Royal- the jewel in Sidmouth s crown- has been left in limbo after cash-strapped council bosses admitted they are desperate to sell the site.

THE redevelopment of The Ham's Port Royal- "the jewel in Sidmouth's crown- has been left in limbo after cash-strapped council bosses admitted they are "desperate" to sell the site.

Members of East Devon District Council's (EDDC) executive board said at a meeting on Wednesday that it does not have the money or manpower to further the project, which will be reviewed again in six months time.

Stunned Sidmouth residents had turned out to issue a passionate plea for members to commission a planning brief for the site which was "promised" to them more than a year ago.

However, EDDC leader Sara Randall Johnson said this would only happen if an outside party stumped up an estimated �30,000 to cover its cost and added: "We are desperate for someone to buy this site and to give us good money for it."

EDDC owns several "interests" along the stretch including its Lifeboat Station, Sailing Club and public toilets.

A surprised Richard Eley, Chairman of Sidmouth's Chamber of Commerce, expressed disappointment at the delay and has called for an "urgent explanation" over the council leader's comments.

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He said: "To off load a site that represents such a key opportunity to underpin the local economy and re structure some of the town's most important functions is surely premature.

"I very much doubt this is the wisest course of action at this stage.

"The redevelopment of The Ham area is a vital component of any plans over Sidmouth's future.

"We need to start now so a plan is in place when economic conditions improve."

Sidmouth councillor Stuart Hughes said the six-month hiatus "makes sense". He said: "We would all like to see something happen to Port Royal. But we have to look at it in context with town-centre pedestrian and traffic management plans. Also we have always maintained work on Pennington 'Cove' has to be our first priority- there no point in doing work there (Port Royal) and then see it all fall into the sea.

"This is the right approach- a vision for Sidmouth has to be what we all want- lets hold back and look at things a whole. It is not time for a piece meal approach."

Present at the meeting Peter Hand, Chairman of Salcombe Residents Association said: "Currently the jewel in the crown of Sidmouth only has two toilets and some lobster pots to show for itself.

"It belittles the council that it has taken so long to do anything. There is an Importance to the whole town to develop this part of Sidmouth- It is a shame that for yet another summer people will flock to our town and look at that area and know nothing is going to happen."

"I hope next month when Pennington Point and Salcombe's cliffs are discussed we don't have a similar situation - another review in six months."

Robert Crick, chairman of The Vision Group For Sidmouth bemoaned the "appalling state" of the sea front and said to councillors: "if you need help we will give it".

He said after the meeting the group felt hamstrung in its efforts to progress the bid, adding: "I'm dubious about their (EDDC) determination to secure our legacy."

Group secretary Jeremy Woodward added: "The resounding voice from the people of Sidmouth is something has to be done- we are asking for a planning brief so there is something in place for people to see."

"This planning blight is not helping local economy."

Earlier in the meeting EDDC corporate director Karime Hassan blamed the current economic climate for the council's decision and said it was "not a sellers' market".

- This week an EDDC spokesman told the Herald that the council gave planning permission for �90,000 extension to the town's lifeboat station along with landlord's consent for changes, but no financial support.

He said: "From an EDDC perspective, any regeneration plans would need to take account of not just the lifeboat building but also the sailing club, both of whom have a legitimate interest in being considered as part of any future redevelopment. Negotiations are ongoing regards the drill hall.