Principles behind Knowle relocation have been abandoned, says EDDC Councillor

This speech was made last night:

EAST DEVON DISTRICT COUNCIL MEETING
26 FEBRUARY 2014

KNOWLE RELOCATION NOTICE OF MOTION

COMMENTS BY CLLR ROGER GILES

Chairman, when I first heard of the proposal to relocate the EDDC offices from The Knowle to Honiton, I thought that the principle of it had some merit.
To go from Sidmouth, despite all its many charms, to a much more central East Devon location at Honiton and the benefit of a railway station as well as the A30 and A35 appeared to be sensible.
To have new designed-for-purpose offices, rather than a converted hotel with myriad corridors and staircases also seemed sensible on the face of it.
Of course the principle often becomes much less attractive when the details of what is necessary become known – particularly the costings.

The costs of the project have rocketed.

And the principles behind it have been abandoned.

No longer is a central location proposed – but a location virtually in Exeter.

Quite understandably the people of Sidmouth and Sidmouth Town Council were very concerned about the proposed relocation. Concerned about the effect on The Knowle and its magnificent grounds and trees. Concerned about the effect on Sidmouth`s economy and the loss of jobs. Concerned about the consequent and excessive provision of 5 hectares of employment at Sidford.

But Sidmouth`s loss was to be Honiton`s gain. Lots of jobs for Honiton people, and a boost for Honiton`s economy.

Not now!

When this relocation project was first proposed the economy was relatively buoyant; people were relatively well off; and this Council was also relatively well off.

Not now! There is a much harsher economic climate. Many ordinary people – the better off – have had to pull their belts in. Many more are in a far far worse situation and are really struggling to pay their bills – including their Council Tax bills. This Council is suffering from unfair financial settlements from the Government.

It is important that we do not lose sight of the purpose of East Devon District Council. EDDC exists to provide services for the people of East Devon. To provide those services it spends taxpayers` money. Of course to enable it to provide services for the people of East Devon EDDC needs offices.

It does seem to me that there are some people who are running this Council who have lost sight of the purpose of EDDC. People who seem to be determined to press ahead, with what many members of the public see as a vanity project, regardless of the cost; regardless of what the people of East Devon think; regardless of the cost to EDDC`s reputation. And I very much suspect regardless of what the staff of EDDC think.

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.