Wednesday, 20 November 2013

District Council: Knowle relocation: "EDDC closes in on new office site": more reports in the press

The front page of this week's Pulman's View from Sidmouth paper:

20th November 2013

SIDMOUTH: SOS say ‘sums don’t add up’

by Anders Larsson

CAMPAIGN group Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) remains firmly opposed to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) move away from its Knowle headquarters, saying the sums don’t add up.

EDDC, on the other hand, refutes the claim, saying its work has been “carried out on a thorough reasoned basis”. As reported last week, EDDC presented a shortlist of five proposed locations at Honiton (two sites), Cranbrook, Skypark and Winslade Park (Clyst St Mary).

SOS heard about the sites when attending what is known as a stakeholder meeting organised by EDDC. SOS and its members were not impressed and indicated there had been a lot of question marks during the stakeholder event.

A statement issued by the group said: “We are amazed that EDDC is even considering the idea of moving to Winslade Park.

“Clyst House was built 1979-80, i.e. a similar date to the ‘modern’ buildings at Knowle. Quite why the modern buildings at Knowle, (and almost the size needed), are ‘not fit for purpose’ when they were specifically built for EDDC, and Clyst House is, when it was built in the same era, for an insurance company, is not clear. Clyst House is less well served by transport services than Knowle, and is of course much less central than Sidmouth.   

“Cranbook and Skypark are similarly far away from the centres of population, and would require large numbers of staff to travel further to work, destroying EDDC arguments for a ‘green’ travel policy. 

“‘Centrality’ was one of the original reasons for relocating to Honiton, even though Honiton is further from the average East Devon resident than Sidmouth.” 

In a further swipe, the statement said: “EDDC staff do not have a clear idea of their intentions for any future sale of the Knowle. There was confusion between EDDC staff in responding to a question  as to whether EDDC intended to commit to the purchase of another site in advance of a legally binding sale of the Knowle. Nor did they seem to know whether the sale of the Knowle would take place before or after the Local Plan had been examined by the inspector, (probably summer next year). It shows the EDDC’s s inadequate grasp of financial realities and commercialism. 

“SOS opposes any move, believing that EDDC has not done its sums correctly, has not properly assessed the cost  of renovations to part of the existing Knowle buildings and that the risk in building a new office, borrowing up to £4.8million, and paying for the ‘savings’ over a 20-year period is far too risky in the current economic climate.”

An EDDC spokesperson replied: “The process is being undertaken in a thorough, systematic and progressive manner, allowing all relevant matters to be identified and considered, including risk. There will indeed potentially be a need to purchase a site prior to a legally-binding sale being agreed for Knowle. This issue, like many others, has been carefully risk-assessed. The financial viability and other associated relocation exercises undertaken by the council and its advisors have been carried out on a thorough reasoned basis, including a significant amount of detailed research and investigations, which are ongoing. 

"The £4.8million ceiling for potential borrowing reflects the price of a further 20 years of continuing with the unnecessary spend on costs and maintenance of Knowle if we don’t move. This is the ceiling for prudential borrowing on top of capital receipt through land sale. Different site options may or may not need borrowing.”

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Meanwhile, the SOS group has met up with Hugo Swire MP:

Save Our Sidmouth has “full and frank discussion” on Knowle relocation,                with Hugo Swire, MP

Two press releases have been issued by Save Our Sidmouth this week. A reminder of the first is here: http://saveoursidmouth.com/2013/11/12/knowle-relocation-far-too-risky-in-the-current-economic-climate/
The second reads as follows:
"Leading members of Save Our Sidmouth have held a meeting with local MP Hugo Swire to raise their concerns about East Devon District Council’s proposal to move from the Knowle. SOS Chairman, Richard Thurlow and Kelvin Dent from the Knowle Residents’ Association held what they describe as a full and frank discussion with Mr Swire and were able to raise their continuing concerns about the loss of jobs and the damage to Sidmouth’s economy if the Council were to relocate.
"Hugo Swire promised to raise the concerns of SOS and his own concerns. He confirmed that he wants a solution in the interests of all his constituents, particularly those in Sidmouth who fear a negative effect on the Town. He told SOS that he needed to be convinced that there will be a saving in the long term to justify a move and urged that whatever decision is taken be taken in an open and transparent manner so that even those who do not agree with the final decision will at least feel that they have been listened to courteously. Mr Swire also stated that he wanted all options to be looked at."

Save Our Sidmouth has “full and frank discussion” on Knowle relocation, with Hugo Swire, MP | Save Our Sidmouth

See also: Knowle relocation “far too risky in the current economic climate” . | Save Our Sidmouth
Five years on, and Knowle relocation options remain undecided, leaving the financial risk unclear. | Save Our Sidmouth

And: Knowle parkland’s new tree celebrates the birth of royal baby | Save Our Sidmouth

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