Whatever happened to … Knowle relocation costs?

Given that Exmouth’s regeneration plan costs have more than doubled from £1.5m to £3.2m (see below) and part of that cost is said to be the development costs rising, whatever happened to Knowle relocation costs?

First it was going to be cost neutral …
Then it was going to cost an extra £4 million …
The latest estimate (some time ago) had the extra cost at £9.7 million

Since then:

… labour costs have increased (minimum wage rise)
… skilled labour is less available (migrants choosing not to come or being sucked into Hinkley C, our older skilled workers retiring and not being replaced by youngsters with the required training due to skills gap)
… imported raw materials costs have risen enormously due to the falling pound
… Community Infrastructure Levy to be paid

Of course, EDDC could build prefab offices to keep down costs, just as the government intends to do with housing …

Suddenly Knowle looks much more attractive in that bright autumn sun, with its lovely park and the view of the sea …

Oh, wait … it’s been flogged off for luxury retirement housing.

8 thoughts on “Whatever happened to … Knowle relocation costs?

  1. Doesn’t that leave the whole Council open to judicial review for abuse of process by attempting, as a body only possessing delegated powers, to attempt to negate the superior body (in this case the Minister of State responsible for the Town and Country planning act)? If the law says the DMC must judge then it is surely an abuse of process to try and say that it cannot.

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    • It only leaves them open to judicial review IF:

      1. The law says that such decisions can only be made by a duly constituted planning committee and that they cannot be overridden by the full council. And I doubt that it says that; or

      2. The full council makes a decision that goes against planning law – which is no different to the DMC making a decision that goes against planning law.

      All I was doing was bring to everyone’s attention that after DMC turned down the previous application, presumably for sound reasons, the EDDC Tory leadership decided that they needed to stack the deck in case the DMC did something similar again.

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    • P.S. The tone of the DMC has changed recently, and for the worse. If you listen to some of the audio recordings you can sense this.

      It is difficult to be certain from recordings because it is not always possible to identify who is speaking, but for the first year or so after the last elections, when there were some new Tory councillors on DMC, there was a reasonable amount of open discussion of more controversial planning applications, but in more recent meetings the discussion has become more stilted and constrained, with the appearance of some applications having been decided by the Tory block vote before the meeting actually discussed them.

      This is not good practice and gives the appearance of undue influence.

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  2. I can’t remember what the size of the Honiton + Exmouth offices was but smaller than Knowle if I remember.

    So couldn’t they just close off the older ex-hotel parts of the Knowle and just use the newer purpose built offices?

    Oh, wait … it’s been flogged off for luxury retirement housing – and let’s not forget that if it is no longer cost neutral, that means that it has been flogged off AT A LOSS.

    Oh – and since the non-existent business case included a large element of extremely inflated costs that would have to be spent on the Knowle (if I remember correctly the Owl reported on the refurbishment of an historic castle done for less), it has been flogged off at a HUGE LOSS.

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    • Ah, now I wonder if it has yet been sold at all. Is it just within the bounds of possibility that it hasn’t been sold at all until the developer has actual planning permission for exactly what they want? After all, why would a developer want to take any risk when they can have a one-way bet and guaranteed profit. I wonder where that information might be found.

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    • There is an agreement to buy at the initial price if planning permission is achieved within a specified time period. See post above for update.

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    • So if I understand that correctly, EDDC has a massive conflict of interest. If they do not provide planning permission for whatever the developer decides then they do not get the sale. And if they might have already made binding commitments (which absent a clear sale surely no prudent body would do without certainty of funding, surely) then they would be leaving themselves open to a rather one-way judicial review for maladministration? If it were to prove the case they can never grant planning permission. If they did then there is no defence against the conflict of interest accusation. But surely someone has already thought this one through. Or perhaps not.

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    • Unfortunately it is worse than that.

      After the Development Management Committee turned down a planing application for the Knowle submitted by the council itself, they changed the Constitution in order that if it happened again the application would automatically be brought to the full council for a decision. And this would happen regardless of any planning laws which might be preventing the DMC from approving the application, and regardless of the fact that most councillors have not received the specialised training that DMC members need to be able to asses properly and legally the planning applications submitted.

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