Sidmouth Port Royal plea

CASH strapped council bosses have been told to turn to Sidmouth s experts and businesses in a bid to progress the stuttering redevelopment of Port Royal.

CASH strapped council bosses have been told to turn to Sidmouth's experts and businesses in a bid to progress the stuttering redevelopment of Port Royal.

East Devon District Council's (EDDC) corporate director, Karime Hassan, has recommended executive board members back the setting up of a 'steering group', including Vision Group for Sidmouth members, when they discuss the project tonight (October 7).

The Herald reported last month how a mystery company has bid to re-develop Port Royal, however, Mr Hassan said the council cannot treat the public sector on a "first come first serve basis" and any private involvement in the bid should go out to tender.

Mr Hassan has suggested an EDDC supported group of no more than eight people, comprising representatives from Sidmouth's town council, vision group, chamber of commerce and local residents with "knowledge of the development industry", should be formed to produce a long-awaited development brief.

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In his report to members, Mr Hassan says "informed" and "qualified" people within Sidmouth are "happy" to help with the brief, which will define the principles of a development and what would be appropriate for the site, including aspects such as its mix, scale and essential facilities.

Mr Hassan wants work to start this month and a draft brief to be produced by March 2010. He said: "The production of a development brief is helpful to the process in establishing exactly what the council wishes to secure as outputs from a redevelopment. This will provide clarity to the tendering process and give confidence to everyone."

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"Once this work has been completed it should be possible to then consider the route the council wishes to pursue."

Content and ownership of the brief would reside with EDDC and any decision to adopt it would rest solely with the authority.

A lack of cash and staff have meant EDDC can't produce the brief itself. Alternatively, members have been told they could consider not to produce a brief at all, or put Port Royal, known as "the jewel in Sidmouth's crown" out to tender to private sector investors.

A secret bidder has already told the council it has the "resources and capabilities" to "deliver an outstanding re-development" of the controversial site, offering to carry out a public consultation for the project, and cover the costs of the development brief.

However, Mr Hassan feels that while there are "clear benefits" in appointing a private sector partner, the council must get the best price possible and not act on a "first come first serve basis".

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