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.
Brutalist is the right word! The sharp angularities and separated blocks are clearly more aimed at giving the apartments good views out from this elevated prime site with scant regard for the appearance to others looking up at them. There must be better ways to accomodate the 126 apartments they are planning.
Yes, brutalist architecture and gross overdevelopment of the site, out of keeping with Sidmouth and the surrounding area, showing scant regard for its devastating effect on the unique southern woodland park – 50 dwellings are allocated in the local plan for this site but Pegasus are greedy for 126 apartments, with 86 of these in 4-storey blocks on the existing office site
and down to the very edge of the lawn terraces. And parking will be inadequate, with the result that the town will virtually lose the public grasscrete car-park and cars will be parked on neighbouring roads. The traffic route through the estate to the main car park near the current gardening depot will also involve the physically-challenged in a very steep climb back to the 4-storey blocks.
Pegasus invite people to say whether there is a “need” for this development. Once again “need” is confused with “market demand”. The following figures show where the real need is in East Devon: the average house price in East Devon is £270.982 while the average income is £23.171 i.e. almost 12 times income, one of the highest ratios in the country. The “need” clearly is for low-cost homes and for more social housing not for expensive houses which are often second homes and investment properties.