Saturday, 1 March 2014

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

Following on from newspaper reports on the latest developments re Knowle
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: District Council vote to spend £1million on Skypark: press reports
there have been several reports on-line:

From Save Our Sidmouth:

At last night’s shameful council meeting it seemed to be all down to Cllr Graham Troman. He was the only local councillor to speak up for fuller information on relocation costs. And the only one to vote for a motion to pause the headlong rush to relocate to Skypark, pending another survey of the existing Knowle offices.
Who speaks for Sidmouth and the Sid Valley? | Save Our Sidmouth

EDDC’s version of last night’s events, which omits to mention the lack of debate from most Councillors who voted, was issued today by the District Council’s Communications and Affairs Manager, Lisa Mansell
Council Leader says EDDC will be ‘engaging with customers and stakeholders’ on office relocation. | Save Our Sidmouth
East Devon District Council - News

Independent Councillor Claire Wright has been talking to presenter Matt Woodley on this morning’s breakfast show. She spoke of EDDC’s “missed opportunity” to address concerns about the soundness of the office relocation plan, at last night’s Full Council meeting. This was a particularly serious, possibly unconstitutional, occasion, as a pertinent motion approved by the Council’s own watchdog (the Overview and Scrutiny Committee), was simply brushed aside. Questions from the public were completely ignored. Chairman, Graham Godbeer, must bear some responsibility for this significant oversight.
Knowle sell-off: Diviani declines Radio Devon’s invitation to be interviewed this morning. | Save Our Sidmouth

A Full Council meeting last night, that began with repeated warnings from senior Councillors about tough financial times ahead, terminated with a swift show of Tory hands which will result in a multi-million pound spend of public funds. The marketing of the Knowle, and pushing on with the relocation ‘ambition’, were voted mindlessly through with the Cabinet minutes.

Independent Councillor, Ben Ingham, had shrewdly said earlier,”I do not believe you know what you are doing”. Debate had been initiated by Independent Councillor Claire Wright and colleagues, but was persistently stifled by the Tories, with some appalling personal attacks and as Councillor Roger Giles had to point out in one instance, downright lies. The Council’s audio recording of the meeting will make interesting listening.

Not a single question from the public was answered.

Here’s a summary of the first question, from Ron Roberts of Exmouth, illustrating that objections to the relocation are not about nymbyism:

Before deciding on building offices on a new site, has the ‘Beyond Retail’ report (Nov 2013) been taken into account? It has the latest strategies for future-proofing towns, by concentrating business and services in existing centres. Examples are given where some Councils have decided to re-relocate back into the town, to benefit from the network of local services.

Knowle sale and Skypark spend voted through, under veil of Cabinet minutes. | Save Our Sidmouth

From the East Devon Alliance:

Yesterday afternoon all EDDC councillors received a letter from Mike Owen on behalf of the Cranbrook Consortium expressing concern about the decision to go for Skypark. The letter asked for the process to remain open.

Chairman the Council should listen to Mike Owen. But the Council should also listen to the people of Sidmouth; and also listen to the East Devon Council Taxpayer.

I urge the Council to support the Notice of Motion. To halt the reckless charge towards this damaging and hugely expensive project. And to stop the chain of devastation that would be left in its wake.

Principles behind Knowle relocation have been abandoned, says EDDC Councillor | East Devon Alliance
Latest News - Exeter and East Devon Growth Point

Some Conservative Councillors voted against the motion (only slightly differently worded) that they had vociferously backed and voted for at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. No debate was aired, to indicate what had caused this complete reversal. A recorded vote was proposed, but firmly rejected ‘en bloc’ by the Tory Councillors. (Of course, it’s not obligatory to follow a whip. As Cllr Tony Howard told a group of EDA members at last night’s meeting, he has voted against the whip at least twice at the DMC.)
No whipping at EDDC, so why the synchronised change of mind? | East Devon Alliance

From Sidmouth Independent News:
Judicial review: who can call from, why and against whom | Sidmouth Independent News
Did councillors know what they were voting for on Wednesday? | Sidmouth Independent News
It will be your vote ….. | Sidmouth Independent News
Mark Williams – a law unto himself? | Sidmouth Independent News
EDDC stoops to new low | Sidmouth Independent News

From Independent Councillor Claire Wright:

At the end of the agenda there was an item that appeared to be the decision on buying Skypark land. The item read “office accommodation - next steps.” So we were awaiting this item for debate.

But rather cunningly, the minutes for approval were listed as the previous item. And as a result the cabinet recommendations were nodded through and then the chairman closed the meeting, leaving several councillors and members of the public wondering why the last item hadn’t been debated.

I had left the room briefly after my motion and returned after the cabinet minutes had been voted through and was amazed that the meeting was closed as soon as the committee minutes were agreed.

I was informed afterwards that the cabinet minutes were introduced briefly and wrapped up extremely quickly, without any debate.

It is scarcely believable that one of the most significant decisions ever made by EDDC was taken in this manner.


Important to clarify that the recommendation from OSC was UNANIMOUS. I was asked by chief executive to make alterations including to insert the words “some councillors” referring to independent survey proposal.

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