Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Knowle relocation project: report to be considered by Council's Scrutiny Cttee: Thursday 16th October

The Deputy CEO has spoken to the Express & Echo about where the District Council is currently at with its relocation project:

"Decisions taken by the council to date have been subject to extensive debate based on detailed reports including options, risk awareness and financial considerations. The location of the new headquarters has yet to be fully determined and firm decisions will only be taken once the true market value of Knowle is understood. Wherever the council locates its new headquarters, it will be open for business for its residents either face-to-face or through better digital services and an appropriate presence across the district.”

But it appears that negotiations are proving more challenging than expected:

Capital receipts from the sale of the council’s site at Heathpark in Honiton which includes the East Devon Business Centre which houses 20 businesses, will also be invested in the new headquarters. Heathpark was controversially marketed for supermarket development last year and exchange of conditional contracts for this multimillion-pound sale was described by the council as being “imminent” in June.

East Devon resident urges East Devon District Council to relocate to Honiton by submitting own building designs | Exeter Express and Echo

In the report attached to the Agenda for the next Overview & Scrutiny Committee next Thursday 16th October highlights these difficulties:

Supermarket Development 

– In Feb 2014 Cabinet and Council reports agreed the selection of Terrace Hill as preferred developer for EDDC’s former SITA depot and the East Devon Business Centre site on Honiton Heathpark and authorised officers to enter into a conditional contract with Terrace Hill. 

Officers have been in further negotiation with the developer involving the Relocation Manager and Council Legal team. Following agreement of Heads of Terms, contract negotiations progressed. It was hoped to be in contract by now but this has not yet been achievable. The key reason is that the supermarket, whilst maintaining its commitment to acquire the site, has, following a recent change in retail shopping strategy, reviewed the size of floor plate that it needs and reduced its offer price. The offer remains substantial and negotiations are ongoing between our agent’s and the developer to secure a best offer price and clarify the detail. 

This has delayed the process and means that any agreement on sale of site, subsequent planning processes and timing of any handover of the site has been slowed. This does not delay the project overall but has implications for the users of the East Devon Business Centre. The Economic Development Team has been circulating Council communications and press releases to users of EDBC and the Leader and Deputy Chief Executive recently met with the business centre’s users to update them on events regarding the Heathpark site and EDBC. Centre users were given the reassurance that no quick decisions will be taken and for a minimum of six months at least there will be no suggestion of EDBC closing its doors. Negotiations with the developer are still underway and a revised offer would be a matter for consideration by Cabinet and Council as part of future decisions on relocation. 

Overview and Scrutiny Committee agendas - East Devon District Council

In other words, supermarkets are not so flush with cash:
Futures Forum: Supermarket saturation point: Is there really room for more in Sidmouth and in Honiton?

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