• Decision on building over Knowle gardens looms

    19th February 2013 | News | Claire
  • The planning application has, controversially, been submitted by EDDC… and will be determined by EDDC councillors on the development management committee next Friday (1 March).

    EDDC says it has to build over the Knowle gardens to be able to afford to build new offices at Honiton.  Councillors claim that the maintenance costs of staying at Knowle are too much and that the move will be cost neutral….. over what time the move would be cost neutral it is unclear, however.

    Councillors continue to claim no decision has been made to move to Honiton, yet well over £300,000 of taxpayers money has been spent on activities to explore the possibility of moving.

    EDDC had planned to wrap it all up several months ago and a planning officer’s report was published last autumn, recommending that councillors approve the application, which could have implications for open green spaces across the district.  But a member of the public spotted errors in the economic assessment and it was withdrawn at the last minute.

    Since then, the application has been withdrawn and reconsulted on around three times, because of further errors. 

    Essentially, the economic impact of EDDC, with well over 100 staff leaving Sidmouth, is likely to be damaging for the town’s viability. 

    And campaigners are understandably worried that there is a link between EDDC’s plans to leave Sidmouth for Honiton, and the five hectares of industrial land proposed at Sidford.  If EDDC leaves Sidmouth, it could provide the proposers of the industrial estate at Sidford with a stronger case, they say.

    The application to develop the Knowle grounds concerns me very much.  I don’t believe that the case has been made to move the offices – most of my quite straightforward questions at the last full council meeting were not answered by EDDC Leader, Cllr Paul Diviani and he also refused to make public the office party relocation agendas and minutes – even in a redacted form.  See here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/10_questions_six_non-answers_and_an_angry_leader/

    There is a real issue here about openness, about needlessly building over a beautiful green space treasured by the public (the true owners of the Knowle and its grounds) and about the implications for other similar areas, of making such a decision.

    The development management committee meeting on Friday 1 March starts at 2pm and will be held in the council chamber.  The recommendation and officer’s report is expected to be published in the next few days. Members of the public are welcome to attend and speak.