Friday, 8 November 2013

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

Following the press release from the District Council:
Futures Forum: District Council: Knowle relocation: "EDDC closes in on new office site": 
press release
SOS  has issued its own take on the options being proffered:

Five years on, and Knowle relocation options remain undecided, 

leaving the financial risk unclear.

Five years on, and Knowle relocation options remain undecided, leaving the financial risk unclear. | Save Our Sidmouth

The Express and Echo has just published this report:

East Devon District Council announces relocation site shortlist
By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 08, 2013
East Devon District Council has announced details of four sites its headquarters could relocate to.

Following the decision by the Cabinet in July to press ahead with a move from its antiquated premises at Knowle in Sidmouth, instead of staying-put, 15 locations were identified as potential sites. From these, two were not eligible and an executive group of councillors and officers whittled the rest down to four.
On October 30, the full council were briefed and the shortlisted sites were presented publicly at a stakeholders meeting today.
The sites are:
- A purpose built building on the High Street in Cranbrook.
- Clyst House at Winslade Park, Clyst St Mary.
- A building at Skypark near junction 29 of the M5.
- Two sites at Heathpark business park at Honiton, either a purpose built building at the site of the council owned business centre, or at another location at the site.
Each site had to fulfil certain criteria including financial viability, be environmentally friendly and be aligned with the Local Plan.
The stakeholders at today’s meeting included chambers of commerce and other business groups including the Federation of Small Businesses, parish and town councils and pressure groups including the East Devon Alliance and Save Our Sidmouth.
The ambition is that the move will be cost neutral, potentially financed through the sale of land at Knowle to a developer, sale of the council’s Manstone depot site in Sidmouth and sale of its Heathpark business centre if it was not chosen as the relocation site.
On the back of various surveys and assessments, deputy chief executive Richard Cohen said the council would save tens of thousands of pounds a year if its offices moved from the aging premises at Knowle into a newer building.
However campaign groups have branded the process as “flawed” and do not believe the move will be as cost effective as the council proclaim. In addition, they have unwavering concerns about what they fear will be an adverse economic impact on Sidmouth.
One site in Exmouth, which cannot yet be revealed, was considered but none came forward in the east of the district or along the coast.
Mr Cohen, who has been leading the relocation project, described the search as “comprehensive” and said the sites that came forward were an “interesting mix”. He said in the coming weeks more investigation and negotiation will be taking place in order to settle upon one of the sites.
Cross party site visits are scheduled for November 18, and a report will go to Cabinet on November 27, with recommendations on the next steps. It is hoped that a decision on the preferred site will be made within a few weeks.
“The site at Cranbrook is financially viable, it’s at the upper end of cost but it’s prominent and it’s a vote of confidence in this new community,” he said. “And there could be the option of combining with other services like a library or the town council.” 
Mr Cohen described the site at Clyst House as the most “unexpected”. Over three floors, the building would be too big for the council’s needs however presents the opportunity for renting some of the space as a way of generating revenue for the council. It’s about a third larger than we need,” he continued. “But it’s being offered to us at a very good price and we could move in a year earlier than the other locations. But the exercise is focused on being more cost efficient going into the future.” If the council chooses Clyst House, it anticipates moving by July 2015. If any of the others are selected it could be July 2016.
Mr Cohen confirmed that details about the second site at the Heathpark estate could not yet be revealed due to commercially sensitive reasons. As part of the process to identify potential relocation sites, in September the council “tested out the market” to see if any developers were interested in its Heathpark site and eight bids were made.
These are due to be reported back to Cabinet this month with recommendations on whether there is a viable offer and therefore whether the site should be sold.
If the current business centre is ultimately sold, “most likely to a supermarket chain which is likely to offer the best price”, the council aims to find another location for it and existing businesses would not be made “homeless” in the interim.
The accessibility of the new HQ including its transport links, are major considerations in the process. But it is recognised that the majority of residents communicate with the council via the phone or internet.
Councillor Ray Bloxham who is part of the executive group, said he is already working on how council services have a presence elsewhere in the community.
Mr Cohen acknowledged recent allegations of “secrecy” by campaigners against the move. He added: “We’re trying to get as much information about the process out there as we can. But what the public is interested in and what is in the public interest are often different. We don’t want to jeopardise the best return for the public purse – that’s always the benchmark on whether we can get information out there or not.” He added: “It’s been a rigorous process which we’ve had to let run its course. We’ve move on quite significantly since July and members need to consider the next stages which will get us to the point of choosing a site.”
Details of the locations are being distributed throughout East Devon by the council.

East Devon District Council announces relocation site shortlist | Exeter Express and Echo

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