Sunday, 3 April 2016

Knowle relocation project >>> Cabinet considers the latest figures - and avoids the issues >>> Wednesday 6th April

Friday's Herald front cover was probably not an April's Fool - although many might see the latest proposals as a bit of a joke:

Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

To what extent the latest plans can be judged as including 'major changes' is open to interpretation:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> a far more imposing development than assumed?
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> a far more imposing development than assumed? Part Two
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Pegasus plans: 'true or false?'

Indeed, this is the view of Save Our Sidmouth who posted this comment earlier today:

‘Major changes’ to Knowle proposals

April 3, 2016 by sidmouthsid

After public feedback on the unsuitability of its original plans, Pegasus Life has told the Sidmouth Herald that “the design of the development has been altered to include pitched roofs and an architectural style more in keeping with Sidmouth”. But the tall 4-storey building pictured on the Herald’s front page (Friday 1st April 2016) shows no apparent trace of “the architectural style” which embellishes Sidmouth’s uniqueness.

The justification for more than doubling the number of 50 homes allocated for Knowle in the Local Plan, is not made clear. The developer, Pegasus Life, now proposes 115 homes, slightly less than the 126 they had initially proposed.

If the now formally submitted plans are approved, a proposed private retirement complex will replace what have been publicly-owned buildings at Knowle. The footprint of the new buildings will exceed that of the current buildings, extending into the upper terraces, arguably the best part of the historic parkland.

For reference, the ‘architectural style’ of the present Knowle building (a former hotel), is pictured below, showing how it blends into the landscape, and the south-facing facade and upper terraces.

The new building may be considerably higher than the present one, as the Futures Forum blogspot illustrates: http://futuresforumvgs.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/knowle-relocation-project-far-more.html

‘Major changes’ to Knowle proposals | Save Our Sidmouth

Meanwhile, the District Council is trying to juggle its own timetable:

Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

A year ago, the District Council was still reiterating its own calculations:

Green light for £10m relocation of East Devon Council’s Sidmouth headquarters

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: March 26, 2015

THE go-ahead has been given for the £10m relocation of East Devon District Council’s headquarters at Sidmouth to Exmouth and Honiton amid a tide of controversy and a raft of objections and a looming 20-year loan repayment. (1)

After a lengthy and at times heated debate, councillors gave approval to the move at their full council meeting on Wednesday, March 25, paving the way for the for sale sign to be erected at the site of the former Victorian hotel which the district authority has resided in for four decades. The move, to purpose built offices at Honiton and Exmouth Town Hall, is expected to be completed in two years by mid 2017. (2)

Council officials including deputy chief executive Richard Cohen and council leader, Councillor Paul Diviani, supported by the council’s independent external auditors, Grant Thornton (3) and internal auditors the South West Audit Partnership, have long maintained that remaining at Knowle would be a drain the council’s resources whereas a move would be more cost effective for the tax payer.

Councillors were told that over a 20-year period the district will be £2.8m better off if the council moves, compared with £3.9m worse off by staying and carrying out minimum investment works at Knowle. (4)

Ahead of the decision, the council resolved to sell 1.8 hectares of land at Knowle, including the area currently occupied by buildings and asphalt car parks, plus 14 per cent of the remaining parkland including the upper terraces, to retirement homes developer Pegasus Life Ltd for around £8m. (5)

The refurbishment needed at Exmouth Town Hall is expected to cost the council around £1m and around £7m to build the offices at Honiton. (6)

But the council said essential repair works to existing buildings at its current offices at Knowle, Sidmouth, would cost £1.5m, and refurbishment of all existing buildings would cost up to £15.9m. (7)

Knowle has high annual energy costs of £83,900 a year compared to a predicted energy cost for Honiton/Exmouth combined of £33,700 per year. (4)

In addition to the funds generated from the sale of its existing headquarters, the council would need to borrow £2.1m over 20 years to fund the move. (1)

The desire to move dates back to 2008 when members instructed a council director to look at the options for a new headquarters.

The idea gained extra momentum when Government cuts started to bite and in July 2011, the Cabinet called for a project team to investigate a move from Knowle without increasing the council tax, with an EDDC-owned site at Honiton an early favourite in terms of making the best business sense.

Early in 2012, the council appointed a project manager and three communication events were held in Sidmouth.

Refusal of outline planning permission for a home-grown development proposal resulted in a further look at the options.

In July 2013 the council voted to actively seek a fresh location and a search identified 15 proposals, which were assessed by the Relocation Executive Group made up of the council’s leader, deputy leader, two other cabinet members and senior officers.

The initial choice following this exercise was a site at SkyPark close to the new community of Cranbrook and at the heart of the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point.

But when it became clear that the sale of the council-owned site at Heathpark in Honiton to a supermarket chain would not be going ahead, SkyPark was not a viable option, so Honiton became the focus for further consideration.

At the same time space became available at Exmouth Town Hall providing a duel site solution.

A raft of concerns were presented to councillors at last night’s meeting...

Green light for £10m relocation of East Devon Council’s Sidmouth headquarters | Exeter Express and Echo

Several points emerge when a year ago is compared to today:

(1) Can we be sure that the project will cost 'only £10m? Tory council insists costly move of East Devon Council HQ is a money saver | Western Morning News

(2) "The timeline now anticipates HQ occupation in Feb 2018." 060416-combined-cabinet-agendasm.pdf

(3) External auditors: watchdogs or bloodhounds? | East Devon Watch

(4) Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: energy and consultancy figures: "possible errors in the Council’s facts and figures" and Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: saving energy costs - and challenging the justification to move

(5) Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Pegasus as preferred bidder... However, its proposals for ‘one of the finest coastal properties’ in South Devon have been rejected by Dawlish Town Council 'on the grounds of overdevelopment'. and Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> 'overage' and the dangers of selling Knowle short

(6) Proposed headquarters at Heathpark, Honiton - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

(7) Costs for the relocation project so far amount to almost £1m - whereas the 'minimum spend' on Knowle would have been £1.5m.

And there are all sorts of other issues:

Councillor bias:
Commercial confidentiality:

The Cabinet is to discuss the latest on Knowle this Wednesday:
Update on key decisions for Knowle , at April 6th Cabinet meeting. | Save Our Sidmouth

With the full agenda here:

Meanwhile in Budleigh...
Budleigh Salterton’s Longboat Cafe sold back to earlier owners | East Devon Watch

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