Sidmouth Port Royal: power to the people!

POWER to progress the bid to re-develop Port Royal has been handed to the people of Sidmouth.

POWER to progress the bid to re-develop Port Royal has been handed to the people of Sidmouth.

A 'steering group' made up of town experts, businesses and officials will be set up to produce a long-awaited development brief for the stagnant project, which East Devon District Council (EDDC) can't afford to advance itself.

The eight member group, supported by EDDC's design champion, will feature representatives from Sidmouth's town council, vision group, chamber of commerce and local residents. The town's Hospitality Association will also be invited to join the fold.

A bid from a mystery company to re-develop Port Royal won't be entertained after EDDC executive board members agreed on Wednesday to further the project "from the bottom up" by harnessing the town's talents.

Work on the development brief is due to start this month and a draft is expected to be produced by March 2010.

Before discussions started, Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman Richard Eley urged members to ensure "maximum public involvement" and that the bid was at too "premature" a stage to seek investment from a private developer.

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After the meeting Mr Richard Eley told the Herald: "I'm very happy with the outcome and look forward to an opportunity for the community to have its say and to participate in the project.

"It's a good result for Sidmouth in moving the process forward, and will hopefully allow for a high level of public participation."

Councillor Stuart Hughes said: "It's good to see at long last this is moving forward and I welcome that."

A "working group" of Sidmouth EDDC members will oversee the group's work and be on hand for guidance.

Cllr Gill Elson backed the notion of the town EDDC representatives 'sitting between' the steering group and council. She said: "That would encourage bottom up planning. Sidmouth has some excellent experts that some other towns do not have."

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