Friday, 16 December 2016

The unravelling of projects in East Devon

Things are going badly in East Devon for the District Council:


There is a £1.6 million (minimum) overspend on this project so far:
Who counts the pennies at EDDC? | East Devon Watch

Which can be seen in an even more damning light:
Costs DOUBLE for Exmouth's 'in limbo' Queens Drive development | Exeter Express and Echo
Exmouth/ EDDC: more of our money down the drain | East Devon Watch

Earlier in the year, the District Council sacked its main partner:
Queen's Drive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - East Devon
Exmouth: EDDC backtracks on Moirai Capital Investments – seafront development up for grabs again! | East Devon Watch

With the campaign group Save Exmouth Seafront posing its own questions:
Exmouth Splash - Public Opinion & Discussion Page | Facebook
“Seafront campaign group issues set of questions from seafront users in response to EDDC’s own Q&As” | East Devon Watch

Last week, a senior Councillor had to gatecrash a public meeting to make the Council's case:
5 December 2016 - East Devon District Council's Exmouth Regeneration Chairman reiterates the council’s commitment to the town - East Devon
“Conservative Councillors Gatecrash Save Exmouth Seafront Meeting “ | East Devon Watch
Post-truth spin by Conservative Gatecrashers | East Devon Watch


And meanwhile, there is the overspend on the relocation project:
Extra £408,000 needed for Exmouth Town Hall refurbishment – estimate did not include things like rewiring and new boiler! | East Devon Watch

As confirmed in the minutes of the Cabinet meeting this week:
"RECOMMENDED: 1. that the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall was an important project in its own right, and recommends to Council that this should go ahead at a cost of £1,669,000"
106 Relocation report update - Cabinet - 14 December 2016 


The Cabinet has decided to "decouple Exmouth Town Hall from the move to Honiton"
106 Relocation report update - Cabinet - 14 December 2016 

The problem is that this is going against the District Council's own limited project management rules:

"The project programme approved by members included a check point (Gateway 7) which was intended to give members a high degree of certainty in the project progressing as planned. This gateway occurs when the Knowle developer received a clear planning approval and thereby the development contract becomes unconditional with certainty over the capital receipt to be received by the Council. The Gateway also includes giving members certainty on contractor costs. 
"This report asks members to approve the refurbishment of Exmouth Town Hall before Gateway 7 is reached in relation to planning permission on the Knowle site." 

All of which makes nonsense of having a 'Gateway 7' to pass through. 

In project management terms, a 'gateway' is an all-or-nothing point of no-return. You can't leave behind a few awkward  unfinished bits - such as not getting planning permission and so not being able to sell Knowle and so finance the new HQ at Honiton:

"Gateway 7 report 
A further report is planned to come forward seeking Cabinet and Council endorsement to continuing with the relocation project in its entirety. This is what is known as Gateway 7 in the project plan and will involve members being presented with a re-run of the business case (including the cost modelling exercise which will be carried out independently by Grant Thornton) to demonstrate that the financial case is still made out and so that Members can endorse their March 2015 decision to sell the Knowle site and their commitment to construction of the new HQ at Honiton Heathpark."

So, what has been decided? 
The whole caboodle to go through, or a 'decoupling' of the bits? 
Are we still awaiting 'a further report'?

Apparently, 'independent' modelling is going to ensure that the Cabinet gets Members' endorsement:

"RECOMMENDED: 2. that a future report will update the relocation project cost and betterment using independent modelling to obtain Members’ endorsement of the decision in March 2015 to sell the Knowle, and the commitment to go ahead with a new HQ construction in Honiton be noted." 
106 Relocation report update - Cabinet - 14 December 2016 


In fact, rather than 'decoupling' these projects, the East Devon Watch site notes that we should actually just make the best of what we've now got:

"Owl says: isn’t it time to draw horns in and manage – with creative ideas – with Exmouth and Sidmouth? Wouldn’t that be the most sensible choice now?"
“Relocation update: “We have been stymied twice”, officer reports to EDDC Cabinet” | East Devon Watch

The District Council might well be going in that direction anyway, as reported by the Save Our Sidmouth site:

"So the Council has turned its focus on how best to manage its office space at Knowle, acknowledging the site’s “potential capital appreciation”. The intention is to identify areas that “can be mothballed”, although Richard Cohen’s comment that Knowle’s “more modern buildings are in a more decrepit state ” than the former hotel, was somewhat surprising."
Relocation update: “We have been stymied twice”, officer reports to EDDC Cabinet | Save Our Sidmouth

Finally... there is a new 'project' looming on the horizon:
14 July 2016 - Next steps mapped out for renewal of Sidmouth’s Port Royal - East Devon

See also:
Business case for Knowle relocation project - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow

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