Traders question Stowford Community Centre �1million cost

SIDMOUTH traders questioned cost, parking and staffing issues relating to the town s long-awaited Stowford Rise Community Centre.

SIDMOUTH traders questioned cost, parking and staffing issues relating to the town's long-awaited Stowford Rise Community Centre.

Work is expected to start on the project, which will feature a children's centre and community hall, in August- with hopes high of a spring 2011 opening.

Chamber of Commerce members gave Devon County Council (DCC) locality development manager Alison Eastland a grilling at a business breakfast on Wednesday, over suspicions the centre could cost in excess of �1million, and only have 20 car parking spaces.

She told traders: "At long last we're close to having this... everything is in place to start building in August," adding bat and reptile surveys are the only obstacle remaining.

Owner of Sidmouth Garden Centre Ian Barlow asked if the expected spend of �1million was "shameful", adding: "We could get two done for that cost."

"The reason for it is wonderful, but the money comes from us (public)," he said.

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Mrs Eastland said DCC was waiting for tenders but 'couldn't say' what the overall spend would be, saying it was a "political decision."

"Why in Stowford?" asked another trader, adding "All of Sidmouth needs a place like that."

Mrs Eastland said an 180sq metre community room will accommodate 180 to 200 people and allow activities like dance and formal functions.

She said electricity generating solar panels won't be installed "to keep costs down".

Suggestions a manager could be employed to run the centre were also questioned by some traders who said the "community could look after it."

Mrs Eastland said: "It is quite a lot to ask of a community group to look after both sides of the building. We can't say what is definitely going to happen. It's up to the community."

Of the provision of 20 parking paces she said the centre will be on a bus route, adding: "We are stuck between a rock and a hard place on parking....parking is an issue and will be an issue."

She said a DCC park and change scheme earmarked for nearby land "is a couple of years away.