• EDDC response to Saturday’s historic rally

    5th November 2012 | News | Claire
  • A LISTENING ear and a fresh hope for a future of constructive conversation were at the forefront as senior Councillors and Officers from East Devon District Council met with local protesters at the Council’s Knowle headquarters on Saturday.

    Council Leader Paul Diviani and other members of the senior team at EDDC, including Chief Executive Mark Williams, welcomed protesters with tea and coffee and listened to impassioned speeches about local planning issues and the possible relocation of the council’s HQ to Honiton. 

    They also provided local people with council newsletters setting out the council’s position on the issues and how it hopes the meet the challenge of boosting the economy and providing appropriate numbers of homes and jobs over the next 15 years.

    The newsletters can be viewed online at: http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/facing-up-to-the-planning-challenge.pdf
    In its closing speech the Save Our Sidmouth group helpfully clarified its hopes for the district. 

    The council has welcomed this as it hopes to progress from a tone of confrontation to a more constructive conversation wherein SOS sets out its proposals from achieving their aims for the Sid Valley.  On the day SOS and other groups said:

    ‘Do the people of East Devon want to preserve all of our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? YES!
    Do we want the Sid Valley to provide jobs and homes for our children and grandchildren? YES!
    Do we want training and apprenticeship schemes developed in East Devon? YES!
    Do we want local food security from our fields, woodlands and the sea? YES!
    Do we want a community where serving the public good is something we can be proud of? YES!’

    Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council said: “These are complex issues and it might be that we can’t always agree on everything, but what is absolutely clear is that we share a common goal of a thriving, economically stable East Devon where we have enough homes, jobs and training opportunities to do right by our residents, especially the young people who will be our future.
    “As we all know, around 60 young people leave Sidmouth College every year. 

    Arguably even the current proposals in the draft local plan don’t fully meet their housing and employment needs when you consider the number of people moving in to the town and the increased longevity of those already here.  The current version of the draft local plan modestly provides an average of 10 houses per year for Sidmouth until 2026. There is another round of consultation coming up where people can raise their concern in preparation for an independent planning inspection next year.  Alongside this we would be happy to hear what alternatives are offered that will deliver SOS’s aspirations.

    “A Local Plan is a difficult thing to get just right.  People understandably have strong views about development, but it’s extremely important that we plan for our future.  Not having a plan would leave the district at the mercy of planning appeals and development in the wrong places, and if we don’t agree our Plan then one will simply be forced upon us by Government inspectors.  We are trying to be fair, even-handed and realistic, but there is no hiding from the fact that tough decisions have to be made.”

    With many protesters upset at the proposals for Knowle, which include green space, housing and a care home in place of the existing building and a small amount of the current parkland, the council is reminding people that nothing is a done deal and it is still gathering evidence to see if the move is viable.

    Councillor Diviani said of the Council’s proposals to sell the Sidmouth site for redevelopment: “EDDC is gathering evidence to help us decide whether it would be viable to move from its ageing Sidmouth headquarters to new purpose-built offices in Honiton.

    “The alternative suggestion of upgrading and reconfiguring the buildings at Knowle to make them fit for purpose as a modern work space would be a very expensive project in itself and without the same potential to offset through land sale.

    “The move would go ahead only if it is cost neutral for Council Tax Payers.  A current Outline Planning Application is part of that evaluation process.  The proposal will be considered by the Planning Authority on 4 December and the viability study will be considered early in the New Year.”

    Photograph: Protesters gathering at the Knowle on Saturday.