Pegasus Life, the company buying the Knowle from EDDC, has just held a glossy public exhibition in Sidmouth to unveil their plans to build 126 retirement apartments on the site of the council offices, car parks and part of the gardens (presumably the other large block to the right of the first picture is built on the current car park?):
The relocation of the council HQ is highly controversial as it will cost the town four hundred jobs which the Council proposes to compensate for by building a business park in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Sidford.
The gardens and parkland around the council offices are one of jewels in Sidmouth’s crown. Pegasus Life claim to have “looked at the local buildings, landscape and ecology when taking inspiration for our design”, but many visitors were unimpressed. One commented that “Milton Keynes is coming to Sidmouth!”
In the current design most of the planned apartments will be in five big brutalist blocks on the plateau which dominates the southern part of the public gardens. They encroach onto the upper lawns and, four stories high with flat roofs topped with lift machinery, they will loom over the gardens.
Some East Devon watchers will remember that that these lawns were surreptitiously removed from the public gardens in 2012 by officers and slipped into the area to be sold to developers. None of Sidmouth’s Tory councillors seemed to noticed this sleight of hand at the time which could help to explain why most of them are no longer there.