Saturday, 1 March 2014

Knowle relocation project: District Council vote to spend £1million on Skypark: press reports

The full Council met this Wednesday
Futures Forum: District Council meets to consider issue of relocating from Knowle to Skypark ... Weds 26th February
and has reached a decision.
Here are the immediate press reports:

Home - Sidmouth Herald

East Devon district councillors back office relocation to SkyPark near Exeter

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: March 01, 2014

Campaigners and councillors claim the “biggest decision ever facing East Devon District Council” has been “nodded” through.

Councillors at Wednesday’s full council meeting backed the Cabinet’s recommendation that the local authority press ahead with its plans to relocate its headquarters from Sidmouth to SkyPark near Exeter.

Earlier this month Cabinet members approved the recommendation for the move to a site, excluding a building, that would cost the council £986,000, to be covered by the sale of assets including its current “oversized and inefficient” offices at Knowle, Sidmouth.

Earlier in the meeting, councillors rejected a motion that was approved at January’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, that an independent survey on the condition of the council’s existing office buildings be undertaken and the decision on the relocation to SkyPark be deferred until its completion.

Since the decision to relocate was first mooted by the council a couple of years ago, a budget of £410,000 has been made available for relocation assessments and feasibility reports – but no assessment on the state of the buildings has been commissioned.

Cllr Wright, who is the ward member for Ottery St Mary, said that although a debate on the relocation occurred at the point at which the survey motion arose, there was no further discussion when the decision to move to SkyPark was ratified. She said this meant the “specifics” that surrounded the move, such as the purchase of the land at almost £1m, and the immediate marketing of its Knowle offices, lacked discussion.

However deputy leader of the council, Councillor Andrew Moulding said there had been a “lengthy” debate surrounding the logistics of the move for over an hour at the point of Cllr Wright’s motion of the independent survey arose. “Everyone was waiting for another discussion,” Cllr Wright said. “But instead the decision was nodded through under the Cabinet’s recommendation, without anyone even explaining it properly.”

Tony Green, Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) and East Devon Alliance member also said there was a lack of debate about the move to SkyPark. “It was appalling that such a crucial decision on probably one of the most important issues in a generation should have been slipped through. Numerous members of the public in public question time had pointed out how reckless they thought the move was. It’s such a gamble, and it goes against all the criteria East Devon set out for moving in the first place for example, to be more accessible. SOS has long called for the existing modern buildings at Knowle to be updated instead. The decision to move to SkyPark beggars belief.”

Cllr Moulding, added: “There was a full discussion on various aspects of the move such as cost implications and the option of drop-in centres is the towns and whether the move should happen. When it then came to the Cabinet minutes, because of the previous lengthy debate, these were nodded through as no one raised any points.”

In November cabinet shortlisted four out of 15 possible locations for new office accommodation: Cranbrook town centre, Skypark, two sites on Heathpark in Honiton and Clyst House, Winslade Park.

Council officers will now enter a further evaluation and negotiation phase with the preferred option of SkyPark.

A report outlining whether the council should commit funding to the new headquarters is expected to be presented to Cabinet and full council in July.

East Devon district councillors back office relocation to SkyPark near Exeter | Exeter Express and Echo

This follows on from press reports from earlier in the week:

SIDMOUTH: EDDC’s move to Skypark ‘belies common sense’, say campaigners
26th February 2014 By Jack Dixon.

The proposal to move East Devon District Council’s head office to Skypark, Exeter, “belies common sense” and is “financially flawed”, according to campaign group Save Our Sidmouth.

District councillors will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to decide on the controversial relocation, and Save Our Sidmouth Chairman Richard Thurlow has written to councillors ahead of the meeting to express the group’s concerns.

In the letter, Mr Thurlow refers to the Knowle – EDDC’s current premises – as the “family silver” and suggests the decision to sell it has been made on “emotional grounds”.

He said: “EDDC made the decision to move away from the Knowle without a full investigation of all the options. It is clear that the choice to move was made on emotional grounds rather than on merit and without a full understanding of the fundamental considerations.

“We believe that the planned move from the Knowle should not go ahead as it is financially flawed, exceptionally risky in these difficult economic times and detrimental to employees and the town of Sidmouth,

Councillors made Skypark their preferred choice for its new headquarters earlier this month, disregarding alternative locations in Clyst St Mary and Cranbrook, as well as two sites in Honiton that were more central within the district.

Leader of the Council Paul Diviani described Skypark as a “key emerging employment and commercial development location” that offers a “secure future” for the council.

But Save Our Sidmouth has argued relocating to the new site would create further problems for district residents and has urged councillors to reconsider the proposal.

Mr Thurlow added: “We fail to understand any rationale for the choice of Skypark. It has no supporting infrastructure for the convenience of staff or the public. The location came last as a choice of location for staff polled recently by EDDC and it will create great difficulties for travelling for EDDC staff from their current residential locations. There is a great danger that, over a period of time the location will attract employees resident in Exeter and westwards, to the detriment of district residents currently employed. The decision belies common sense. There is absolutely no rationale for incurring costs of perhaps £15million at this time, even though the sale of ‘family silver’ might raise sufficient sums to fund the move.”

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

See also:
Skypark site to cost EDDC £1million - News - Sidmouth Herald
Council bid for new £1million Skpark slot in office move plans | Western Morning News
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: moving to Skypark: £1 million

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