Remember the old days, when EDDC said its move to a single new building in Honiton would save money?
Then it added an old, crumbling building in Exmouth (the Town Hall) neglecting to have a full survey before estimating the cost of refurbishment. Those refurbishment costs are now £1.669m, – £408,000 more than the original estimate.
Now we hear that, instead of providing 20 affordable houses on the Manstone Depot site in Sidmouth as set out in the local plan, EDDC has instead decided to build offices for its Estates Department and keep the Streetscene department there.
No costs appear to be in the public domain for this – which should form part of the relocation budget. And it begs the question: why is the Estates Department and Streetscene relocating to Manstone Depot rather than to the new site in Honiton? Is the Honiton site too small, or does EDDC have an antipathy to affordable housing in Sidmouth? Or is there some other more murky reason?
Or is it just that officers and councillors don’t want Streetscene vehicles and materials spoiling their view in Honiton?
Here is the story from Sidmouth Herald:
“East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Manstone Depot is allocated for 20 homes in its Local Plan – but now the authority wants to keep its estates department in Sidmouth when it relocates to Exmouth and Honiton.
Its development management committee (DMC) has been recommended to approve the plans for a single-storey office block when it meets on Tuesday (January 10).
Jeremy Woodward, who has campaigned for transparency in the relocation project, said: “I am dismayed about what seems to be EDDC’s disregard for its own Local Plan – and promises of affordable housing which is much-needed in Sidmouth.
“This application is clearly very sensitive.
“Firstly, it is on a site reserved for housing in the Local Plan; and secondly, it is clearly part of the ‘larger picture’ of the district council’s relocation project.”
Mr Woodward submitted a Freedom of Information request in 2014 which revealed that EDDC’s housing service had made two conditional offers to build 25 homes on the Manstone Depot site. One had a mix of market and ‘affordable’ homes; the other was fully ‘affordable’.
The report to DMC members says the offices will be limited to one section of the site and housing could still be delivered on the remaining area. It adds, the departure from the Local Plan is not grounds to refuse the application.
The office building would act as a ‘hub’ for operations that already largely take place from the depot, which is used by the StreetScene team and for storage, adds the report.
An EDDC spokeswoman said: “The consolidation of Knowle Depot activities to our existing site at Manstone is an opportunity that results as part of the relocation project.
“The transfer of depot activities is an existing costed element of the relocation project and, as such, included within the independent and positive cost modelling of relocation.
“Manstone Depot continues to provide a base for a range of important services to Sidmouth and the wider district.”