That Knowle table … sold for £50?

Oh, er – been kicking off on Facebook page!

22 foot mahogany table with 8 foot extension (not sure if included in 22 foot or makes it 30 foot, but probably the latter). Rumour is it was “valued” and was sold for a winning bid of £50 (fifty pounds).

Most councils have a policy on this. Anyone seen East Devon”s?

Plundering of Knowle assets by councillors? Best value?

It appears that councillors and officers have been given first dibs of Knowle assets, in advance of the move to Honiton and one of them has rather jumped the gun on claiming his prize.

Is this best value or equitable, Owl ponders? As does at least one independent councillor.

Note: Neither of these emails were marked private and/or confidential when acquired by Owl.

From a well-known Conservative councillor:

Subject: Re; Large Table In Members Area

Dear Members and SMT,

Subject: Re; Large Table In Members Area

You will all be aware there has been an auction of council furniture, chattels etc of which I bid for a few bits and pieces.

I bid on behalf of my partner for the very large table in the members area along with the 20 green chairs that we all sit around.

I have been told that I have been successful in my bid so the table along with the 8’ extension is heading back to Exmouth to sit in (address of councillor), Exmouth in its rightful Town (some may say).

The relevance of my informing yourselves is that the rightful date of removal is end of January/ beginning of February when we finally ‘pull out of the Knowle.

I would apologise for the short notice but we have 22 family members to Christmas dinner and would like to pick the table up tomorrow as it appears it is the last day of our offices being open, which of course would mean I couldn’t collect it on Monday, 24th, as we will be closed.

We do have one or two meetings between the New Year and our final pull out but I feel it only right to ask members if indeed anybody felt offended if it was collected tomorrow on our last day.

I will fully respect any position any member may feel regarding it being removed earlier and would kindly request your thoughts.

If indeed it were removed earlier I have spoken to Simon Allchurch who feels we could put a few of the red tables on wheels in the place of the table and there is an array of chairs to use for members in the interim so it doesn’t look bare.

I must again apologise for the short notice but with the closing date being the 19th and all that goes with it at this time of year I would like to think you may grant me a little latitude (or not).

Best wishes and a Happy Xmas to one and all.”

And here is the response from an Independent councillor

“I feel I must reiterate my comment from when this started. Who authorised the ‘private sale’ of Council property to staff and members? Why are we not duty-bound to seek the best price at public auction? No-one answered my questions.

Will we ever know the proceeds of this internal sale for the public record?”

I strongly suspect that members of the public would be shocked to know that councillors have been able to buy items in this way. It is somehow appropriate that 22 family members will sit down to feast at this table, assuming the removal goes ahead.”

“Doctors say a new retirement village in Torbay will put too much pressure on care services ‘close to breaking point’ ” – and Sidmouth?

“Doctors are objecting to plans for a retirement village in Torbay because of the pressure extra elderly residents will add to local health and care services “already close to breaking point.”

English Care Villages has submitted plans to Torbay Council for a 159-home “continuing care retirement community” at Sladnor Park, a former holiday park near the village of Maidencombe on the coast between Torquay and Shaldon.

Maidencombe Residents Association says the apartments would be too expensive for locals and the isolated site two and a half miles from the nearest urban centre at St Marychurch would bring in outsiders who would increase pressure on health and care services.

Objections to the plan include one from Torquay GP, Dr Roger Fearnley, who warned health services were already “close to breaking point” and said the Sladnor park development would attract people retiring from outside the local area.

He said in a comment on the planning application: “This influx of people would put significant further strains on health and social care services which are already close to breaking point.

“I am not aware of any meaningful conversations between the developers and local GP practices. There seems to be the assumption ‘we will cope.’ We may not.”

Retired GP Dr Vivienne Thorn, who lives at Maidencombe, objected to the plan mainly because of its impact on local care services, and also questioned whether its isolated site could turn it into a “rich person’s ghetto”. She said the impact on health and social care had not been properly assessed.

Dr Thorn wrote: “An additional 200 elderly people will place an intolerable strain on GP and Community services.”

Richard Whistance, of Sladnor Park Road, near the development site, said approving the scheme would ruin the natural environment of the land and open the door to developing other countryside areas. He said it would affect rare wildlife including legally protected bats, slow worms, badgers, cirl buntings and nesting buzzards.

He said: “This is not to be ignored; especially in these times of rapacious development and ecological destruction, Sladnor Park needs preserving as countryside.” …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/doctors-say-new-retirement-village-2313490

Sidmouth flood defences delayed so PegasusLife can gobble up car parks and meadows to store building materials!

“A £750,000 scheme to protect hundreds of town-centre homes and businesses from flooding looks set to be delayed until the building of a controversial 113-home retirement community at Knowle is completed.

The news comes after the district council agreed with developers PegasusLife to allow the use of the lower car park and nearby flower meadow for storage space during construction. It is not yet clear on what basis the council’s car park is being used.

The use of the lower car park would mean phase two of the £759,000 Sidmouth Surface Water Improvement Scheme will have to be redrawn as the proposed lagoon feature and above ground storage area are located adjacent to the car park.

Devon county councillor Stuart Hughes said officers will meet the district council on Thursday (November 29) to discuss options at the site.

Cllr Hughes said: “After all the work that’s gone into getting the funding for the scheme, it will be delayed.

“East Devon District Council [EDDC] has agreed to the storage equipment of PegasusLife for their construction and will not allow county to use this area until after construction is complete.

“Hopefully the officers will find out at the meeting which option they prefer and whether we can achieve the level of flood improvements we desire.

“I do hope that we can find an alternative for the lagoon SUDS system so that the 300 properties and businesses in the town will be protected from future flood events.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said the authority is in discussion with the partners involved.

In January, PegasusLife won an appeal to turn EDDC’s headquarters at Knowle into a large scale 113-home retirement community after its application was rejected in December 2016.

Campaigner Ed Dolphin has slammed the use of the car park as a ‘slap in the face’ and claims it is likely to be a blow to Sidmouth’s economy as it might affect the park and walk service into town.

Mr Dolphin said: “Many people objected to the Knowle development as a blight on the green corridor as visitors entered the town. This move will bring it to the forefront, right down to the roadside.

“Even worse, it seems that the developers need even more space and so they are to be given the flower meadow next to the car park as well, the one that was mown by mistake in the summer and which EDDC promised to care for in the future. The meadow is already waterlogged for the winter and storing building materials and machinery on it will probably ruin it for years.

“I do not see why PegasusLife need this extra space, their site has three large car park areas that could be used for storage at various times in the development.”

He called the park and walk car park in Station Road a ‘valuable asset’ as it reduced the strain on the town centre, was popular in the winter and boosted the town’s independent traders.

PegasusLife has been approached for a comment.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/eddc-pegasuslife-throw-flood-scheme-at-knowle-into-question-1-5798537

Retirement home builders feeling the pinch …

“” … Another profit warning at McCarthy & Stone (MCS.L) triggered a sharp share price fall for the UK’s biggest builder of homes for retirees a 18.8 percent decline. …”

Could this be part of the reason? There are no affordable properties being built at the PegasusLife Knowle site:

“The Mayor of London’s Office has today welcomed a judgment handed down by the High Court that has backed the Mayor’s ‘threshold’ approach to affordable housing.

Following a legal challenge by four retirement homes developers, the Hon Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled that the Mayor’s threshold approach, which allows developments to be fast tracked through the planning system where they provide at least 35 per cent affordable housing, is consistent with the adopted London Plan.

The judge rejected claims by McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles Ltd, Pegasus Life Ltd, Churchill Retirement Living and Renaissance Retirement Ltd that this policy, contained within the Mayor’s Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on Affordable Housing and Viability, would fail to secure the maximum reasonable level of affordable housing.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Skills and Regeneration, said; “Tackling the capital’s housing crisis is the Mayor’s top priority and this ruling is an important moment for thousands of Londoners who are desperate for genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy.

“Our guidance sets out a clear approach that makes the planning system in London clearer, quicker and more consistent. I am pleased that the Judge has backed this approach which will help us to turn around years of neglect when it comes to building the homes Londoners so desperately need.”

The Mayor’s Draft London Plan includes the same requirements on reviews as the SPG. The judgment confirms that this has weight as it is an emerging plan.

The judgment also rejected the claims of the retirement homes developers that the guidance should have been the subject of Strategic Environmental Assessment and found that the claims that the Mayor had failed to have due regard to his duties under the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 were unarguable.”

https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/judge-rules-in-favour-of-mayors-housing-approach

It’s going to take more than a yew tree branch to ward off evil at EDDC new HQ!

And who at EDDC was responsible for this press release that gives the (totally erroneous) impression that the sale of Knowle is 100% financing the new HQ?

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/06/16/sums-on-knowle-relocation-not-adding-up-for-us-the-taxpayers/

“A yew tree branch has been placed on top of East Devon District Council’s new HQ to “ward off evil spirits”.

The topping out ceremony took place at Blackdown House in Honiton, which will be the council’s new home by January 2019.

As part of the ceremony, a yew tree branch was attached to the highest point of the building.

The ceremony was completed by council chairman Andrew Moulding and leader Ian Thomas. A council spokesman said it was “an age-old tradition”.

The authority plans to move from its current HQ in Sidmouth to Blackdown House in December 2018. The move will be financed by selling the property to Pegasus Life Ltd for £7.5m, which will turn it into a 113-apartment assisted-living community. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-44465408

Sums on Knowle relocation not adding up for us, the taxpayers

“Remaining at Knowle with essential and basic repairs undertaken would have cost the council £ 4.5m over 20 years. In contrast moving to the new HQ in Honiton will provide a cash saving of £ 1.4m over the same period. That’s a difference of £5.9m.’

The above quote is lifted from the EDDC web-site.

So even using their figures, it will take 20 years to recover half the cost of the new building. Only after 40 years will we get our money back.

So if we see a Devon unitary authority in the next 40 years we will lose money.

But, of course, it’s much worse, because the EDDC numbers assume that there will be no ‘essential and basic repairs’ to the new building over those 40 years. Impossible, of course.

Even worse, no-one wanted EDDC to remain in the whole of the Knowle building. Those opposed to the move recommended that EDDC retrench to the modern buildings that were built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Half the size of the Knowle as it now stands. So, even using EDDC’s figures, half the size would mean half the ‘essential and basic repairs’, so only £2.25 million, and half the ‘cash saving’ of £1.4 million, so a trifling £700,000 over 20 years. Peanuts.

So even using EDDC’s own numbers, the new building cannot produce any savings for 80 years.

Even, even worse, EDDC has borrowed the money to build the new building. The cost of borrowing £11 million, the notional build cost of Blackdown House, is of the order of £400,000 per annum, dwarfing the expected savings.

Even, even, even worse, the costs of the new building do not include the fees charged by various advisers over many years, the cost of the move itself, compensation to staff forced to travel further, new equipment, officer and councillor time, and the cost in terms of disruption. Plus all the costs of disposing of the Knowle.

The true cost of relocation is almost certainly at least £20 million.

Even, even, even, even worse, those EDDC numbers do not take into account the ‘essential and basic’ repairs conducted at their new Exmouth office, which came in at a whopping £1.7 million. Nor the running costs of Exmouth, which will surely be at least £1.4 million over that 20 year period. Almost certainly much more: Exmouth is, of course, an old building from the 1920s, far older than the modern brick buildings at Knowle.

Blackdown House will be a tremendous drain upon the finances of EDDC from the day it opens, and the expected cost savings thereafter will be microscopic compared to the huge borrowing costs.

But the biggest problem of all is that EDDC’s own consultants informed them that the building constructed at a cost of £20 million would only have an open market value on its completion of £3 million. That included the value of the land on which it sits.

So, if Devon goes unitary any time in the next few years, we will have lost £17 million.

The only good news for residents of East Devon is that the whole of Devon will then have to pay the bill and the borrowing costs.