Monday, 2 November 2015

Knowle relocation project: "MP Hugo Swire expresses his fluctuating stance on EDDC’s move from Knowle, and offers some surprisingly unsubstantiated hopes."

The front page of the Herald leads with proposals for the Eastern Town from the local MP, the Rt Hon Hugo Swire:
Futures Forum: Plans for Port Royal: anticipating a Regeneration Board >>> 'a clever design that incorporates multi-storey parking and residential homes with affordable housing'

Mr Swire has also given his opinions about the Knowle relocation project.

The Save Our Sidmouth website notes the changes in the MP's stance:

MP speaks out on the ‘divisive ‘ district council relocation debate

November 1, 2015 by sidmouthsid

The following extracts are from a report published in this week’s Sidmouth Herald (Friday 31 Oct). In it, MP Hugo Swire expresses his fluctuating stance on EDDC’s move from Knowle, and offers some surprisingly unsubstantiated hopes.

‘The Conservative MP previously called for East Devon District Council (EDDC) to put on hold its controversial plans to relocatefrom Knowle, but he says now it is a ‘done deal’, the authority needs to ‘get on with it’. Speaking last December, Mr Swire said it would be prudent for EDDC to wait before committing to a costly move from Sidmouth to Exmouth and Honiton – which would take jobs outside of his constituency.
Last week, he told the Herald: “It has been generally divisive. My hope is that the jobs that are lost from the town will be replaced by those in the new development. I was not convinced by the case for moving it. The council has made a deal with Pegasus Life and thinks it will save money in the long-run. Although the grounds of the Knowle are walked in, the building itself is not [currently used by the community]. I hope the people in the town will be able to use the facilities more.” ‘

MP speaks out on the ‘divisive ‘ district council relocation debate | Save Our Sidmouth

There had been a lot of pressure on the MP:
Knowle relocation “far too risky in the current economic climate” . | Save Our Sidmouth
Letter to Hugo Swire, MP, re. voicing shared concerns about Knowle relocation | Save Our Sidmouth

In October 2012, he stated his intention to ask for the case to be 'called in':

The Knowle, Sidmouth

Friday, 26 October, 2012

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has vowed to call on his Whitehall colleagues to independently scrutinise the district council's plans to redevelop its Knowle headquarters. Mr Swire revealed he will ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to 'call in' the proposals if they are approved. He said the move was necessary in the interests of "probity, accountability and transparency".

"I'm not against it, I'm not for it," said Mr Swire. "I just want to make sure I'm fulfilling my role as an MP so everyone is absolutely certain proper procedures have been adhered to."

Mr Swire said he respected East Devon District Council's aspirations to relocate and the possible sale of its current Sidmouth home as a result - and didn't question its motives. But he recognised that an authority determining the fate of its own plans, relating to land it owns, would inevitably be looked on as controversial.

"Because this is so contentious in terms of the council giving itself planning permission, in the interests of probity, accountability and transparency, it will be better if it's called in," he said. "I'm going to urge Eric Pickles to call it in. "It's so contentious that people will only be assuaged if it's seen to be a genuine, independent decision."

Mr Swire said the public "failed to understand the limited role" of an MP in planning matters like Knowle. "I totally support local democracy, including the council's decisions to do what it wants," he added. "It's not for an MP to second guess the local authority which is responsible for decisions, but I do have a role in ensuring proper procedures are adhered to. If localism means anything, it's local people's views have been listened to. That doesn't mean there can be a block on everything."

Mr Swire said he penned a letter to Mr Pickles on behalf of a number of his constituents in September.

In his response, Mr Pickles said his office had received a petition and a number of letters and emails on the subject.
He added: "In light of the large volume of correspondence we have received, my officials will be considering whether call-in is appropriate. However my general approach is not to interfere with the jurisdiction of local authorities unless it is necessary to do so. Consequently, I only consider calling in applications where issues of regional or national importance arise."

In dealing with applications for their own proposals, councils must apply the same statutory planning procedures in the same way for private development. "Every authority is accountable to its auditor, the electorate and ultimately the courts for the procedures it follows and for the decisions it takes on applications... including its own," added Mr Pickles.

The Knowle, Sidmouth | Hugo Swire

In November of last year, SOS had talks with the MP:
Save Our Sidmouth has “full and frank discussion” on Knowle relocation, with Hugo Swire, MP | Save Our Sidmouth

In December, Mr Swire called for the project to be put on hold:
MP Hugo backs Exmouth EDDC jobs - but calls for a delay - Election 2015 - Exmouth Journal
Leader Paul Diviani rejects MP’s call to put Knowle relocation project on hold. Save Our Sidmouth responds. | Save Our Sidmouth
EDDC leader accuses East Devon MP of electioneering - Claire WrightFutures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Save Our Sidmouth welcomes MP's comments

However, by January, many felt it was 'too little, too late':
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: “What a pity Mr Swire has not been on board since 2011 when this project was announced – indeed, since 2007 when it was apparently first mooted by the Tory majority.”

And by September, Mr Swire felt that the relocation project had become a 'parochial matter':
MP Hugo Swire seems to have forgotten... - East Devon Watch
Black is white and white is black: Hugo Swire changes his tune on Knowle | East Devon Watch

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