True to form, East Devon District Council’s all-Conservative Cabinet tonight voted unanimously to press on with relocation from the Knowle.
There were two questions from the public, from Dr Cathy Gardner of East Devon Alliance, and from 16-year-old Gemma Manley. (We’ll post details later)
Five Sidmouth Ward members were present (no sign of Cllr Hughes).
Graham Troman spoke out against the loss of Sidmouth jobs; the rising asset value of the Knowle site; and of the potential better use of the 1980s purpose-built offices.
Peter Sullivan asked if the Town Council would get a pay-out from EDDC to help maintain the gardens. Richard Cohen replied that a deal would probably be struck with them.
Frances Newth wondered how much the local ‘hubs’ would cost ( Cohen said “Hubs” (his own term!) “is a bit of a misnomer” . EDDC would provide services, using existing sites where possible, but this would become clearer “when we know what the needs are”.
Cllrs Drew and Kerridge didn’t have any questions, as “Everything’s been asked”.
Ward member for Exmouth, Cllr Tim Wood congratulated the Sidmouth members “for fighting so well on behalf of Sidmouth”, and said they had got “an extraordinarily good deal. “I get annoyed”, he said,”When we are told we are abusing Sidmouth’s heritage”. (Was he referring to the SVA publication, ‘A Stately Pleasure Dome’ ?).
But Cllr Pook reminded his colleagues that the relocation build costs “were going over our budget”, and that he would rather have a “break even situation” . (EDWatch note: Yes, whatever happened to “Cost neutral”?) “I take on board your challenge to keep costs down”, promised Richard Cohen.
Cllr Ian Thomas seemed to have overstepped the mark with his long list of concerns. The Leader impatiently chided him, saying “How many questions are you going to ask?” One of those questions was about risk, and what the consequences would be “in the event that no planning permission was given”.
Rounding up the debate, Cllr Diviani acknowledged that £7-8million for Knowle “was not the best deal I thought we might have got” . There was “a blight on it from the planning application that got turned down”, he claimed, putting the blame for the low price entirely on Save Our Sidmouth!!!