'Wrong time for Knowle relocation', say SOS

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 November 2013

Archant

Knowle relocation is 'far too risky in the current economic climate', according to the chairman of Save our Sidmouth.

SOS attended the second East Devon District Council (EDDC) ‘stakeholder’ meeting on Friday, November 8, when EDDC disclosed some of their thoughts about their proposed move from the Knowle.

We are amazed that EDDC is even considering the idea of moving to Winslade Park.

Clyst House was built 1979-80, ie a similar date to the ‘modern’ buildings at Knowle.

Quite why the modern buildings at Knowle – almost the size needed – are ‘not fit for purpose’ when they were specifically built for EDDC, and Clyst House is, when it was built in the same era, for an insurance company, is not clear.

Clyst House is too big, would have to be partially sub-let, and would have to be renovated, an option EDDC are not prepared to consider for Knowle.

Clyst House is less well served by transport services than Knowle and is, of course, much less central than Sidmouth.

It does seem to be very odd to be looking at Clyst House while simultaneously dismissing Knowle.

Cranbook and Skypark are similarly far away from the centres of population, and would require large numbers of staff to travel further to work, destroying EDDC arguments for a ‘green’ travel policy.

EDDC also admits that it would have to provide ‘local’ representation in various EDCC population centres.

‘Centrality’ was one of the original reasons for relocating to Honiton, even though Honiton is further from the average East Devon resident than Sidmouth.

‘Centrality’ has now been forgotten, as has the principle that any jobs lost in Sidmouth would be taken up by other residents of East Devon.

A move to Clyst House, Cranbrook or Skypark – ie much nearer Exeter – will dramatically increase the opportunity of jobs for the Exeter population.

After ten years, this will take £3million per annum out of the local economy.

EDDC staff do not have a clear idea of their intentions for any future sale of the Knowle.

There was confusion between EDDC staff in responding to a question as to whether EDDC intended to commit to the purchase of another site in advance of a legally binding sale of the Knowle.

Nor did they seem to know whether the sale of the Knowle would take place before or after the Local Plan had been examined by the Planning Inspector (probably summer next year).

It shows EDDC’s inadequate grasp of financial realities and commercialism.

This was the downfall of West Dorset, who thought they would sell their offices for in excess of £3million, and in fact achieved £1million.

SOS opposes any move, believing that EDDC has not done its sums correctly, has not properly assessed the cost of renovations to part of the existing Knowle buildings and that the risk in building a new office, borrowing up to £4.8million, and paying for the ‘savings’ over a 20-year period is far too risky in the current economic climate.

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