‘We should have been told about Mill Street plans’

Mill street carpark. Ref shs 6858-21-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Mill street carpark. Ref shs 6858-21-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Angry civic leaders have blasted the ‘shocking’ way East Devon District Council (EDDC) announced an idea to redevelop a town centre car park.

The Herald revealed last month that EDDC was ‘looking into the feasibility’ of social housing on its facility in Mill Street to address an ‘acute need’ for more affordable homes.

But last week, town councillors were highly critical of the way the authority made its proposal public – with many representatives first reading about it in the Herald.

Addressing colleagues at a meeting on Monday, October 5, Councillor Michael Earthey said: “It’s quite shocking really that the only information we have got regarding housing development at Mill Street car park is through the Herald.”

Cllr John Dyson, who serves as a town ward EDDC representative for Sidmouth, said: “I was quite disgusted, frankly, that [EDDC] should seek to put out information of that nature with such short notice and not inform the district council members for that area beforehand.”

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He said his district council colleagues, councillors Cathy Gardner and Matt Booth, had met with senior EDDC members in the weeks before the announcement, and although the subject of housing was discussed, no mention was made of Mill Street.

“I leave members here, and readers of the Herald, to draw their own conclusions,” he added.

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Members resolved to write to EDDC to ask for an explanation.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “All the towns in East Devon need to play their part in helping the council address the affordable housing crisis that we collectively face.

“Town centre sites are normally the most sustainable locations and all public sector bodies are being encouraged to look at their assets and assess if they could be better used.

“This is just the start of the debate and no decisions will be taken without the full democratic process, proper consultation and engagement, but the discussion has to start somewhere.

“Sidmouth Town Council has a good reputation over the years of facing up to our collective challenges and we are confident that close partnership working with the town council on this, and other challenges, will continue to bring positive outcomes for the town into the future.”

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