And the letters page inside coincided with this determination to stimulate the debate. Printed below is a letter from former District Councillor Chris Gibbings from 5th April:
A well meaning group want to retain the Drill Halland do great things with it. They do not appear to have any money for this expensive makeover or understand that the whole of
Port Royal is a prime piece of real
estate worth millions. Keeping this building will prevent any other development
in that area: is that what they want?
Between them, EDDC and the Town Council own the fisherman’s sheds, the toilets, drill hall, sailing club, lifeboat station, the car park and the swimming pool. DCC own the road. In all, a massive piece of land with fantastic potential to really put Sidmouth back on the map as well as defending the cliffs and the Ham.
There is room for two story parking over the present car park and even over the swimming pool if you first remove the roof. This can be made to look good if sympathetically designed. The whole of the ground floor of anything built could be community/commercial use including a new sailing club, lifeboat station, fish shop and decent toilets. The lifeboat however may wish to move near their launch site if that were possible and dare I suggest the fish shop would be great at “The Arches” which are owned by the Town Council. They could have tables outside and keep most of the interpretation centre. EDDC would have to grant permission for some commercial use however as there was a condition on the “gift” to the Town.
To pay for all that there is room for very expensive flats with balconies angled to view the
Let’s get real: no one is going to build
all this for nothing and EDDC aren’t going to find any money for Sidmouth
unless they have to. The ruling clique
wants to spend in Honiton and couldn’t give a fig for Sidmouth. What ever
happened to the money from the Fortfield ? Jurassic Coast
The roof of the development, to be reached by a dedicated lift, could be partly a large viewing area with tables for coffee etc and partly a restaurant with a “Signature Chef”.
I am aware similar plans have been muted before but the developer went away when we didn’t want a marina. I am sure the right developer can be found without the marina option if he is offered the right incentive; he doesn’t need to buy any land.
I believe the Town Council want to take the lead in pushing for development in this area, I wish them well and hope they succeed but if the Drill Hall stays so does everything else. EDDC have used the well-meaning “save the Drill Hall” people to say “we will look into it” which is political speak for “what a great excuse to do nothing”.
Let’s get the debate going, get behind the Town Council, think bold and get something really special in this part of town, not a “temporary” car park...