Sidmouth’s ‘unused and unattractive’ Drill Hall could become restaurant or bar
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth’s ‘unused and unattractive’ Drill Hall could be sold off to become a restaurant or bar as part of a scaled back vision for Port Royal.
After a ‘clear lack’ of public support, a report to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet recommends against building a five-storey mixed-use block with up to 30 flats.
A £10,000 scoping exercise for the area revealed an unforeseen flood risk and a restrictive covenant, and says the implementation timescale for the beach management plan is unclear. Providing ‘affordable’ housing has been deemed unviable, and the ‘more modest’ approach may mean the 30 homes allocated to the site in the Local Plan cannot be delivered.
The cabinet report says these ‘unresolved uncertainties’ mean Port Royal is ‘not a strategic priority’ for EDDC, but adds: “It is still important to find ways to make progress in improving what is still recognised to be an area of Sidmouth that detracts from the town’s otherwise attractive seafront. To this end, the redundant Drill Hall site remains a more straightforward and viable opportunity for redevelopment and reuse.
“To take this approach reflects the community’s views through consultation that we look after the existing and important active and community uses and find a new future for the vacant Drill Hall site that could create the sort of restaurant, bar or similar offer that people clearly wish to see in this spectacular location.”
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The Drill Hall is set to be marketed for six months.
The lifeboat station and the sailing club would be unaffected by the new proposals, while Sidmouth Town Council has been recommended to focus its attention on improving the fishermen’s sheds at the Ham. This could include promotion of the existing water activities and maritime heritage of the area.
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The recommendations will need to be signed off when the town council meets in the Methodist Church Hall on Monday, and EDDC’s cabinet meets at Knowle on Wednesday.
Town councillor Jeff Turner said: “I believe the Sidmouth public will welcome the approach being recommended.
“It will provide opportunities for renewal of the Drill Hall site and, in particular, the possibility of our seafront benefitting from the new restaurant and bar attractions that emerged as popular choices in responses to the scoping study and the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan surveys.
“At the same time, both the lifeboat station and the sailing club and boat park will remain unaffected.”
District councillor Cathy Gardner, who led a campaign to retain, refurbish and reuse the existing buildings at Port Royal, said: “The news that EDDC is proposing to drop development plans for Port Royal is very welcome.
“It remains to be seen whether residents in Sidmouth will want to put together a bid for the Drill Hall because at the moment we don’t know whether it is the freehold or the leasehold that will be sold or the price being sought.
“I hope people will take the chance to attend both the Sidmouth Town Council meeting EDDC’s cabinet to ask questions and hear the discussion.”