Council to consider social housing scheme on Mill Street parking site for local families

East Devon District Council is to commence a feasibility study into the possibility of transforming its currently underutilised Mill Street car park into much needed accommodation for local families in Sidmouth.

Despite a perceived lack of parking in Sidmouth, Mill Street car park, which has capacity for a total of 46 cars (available on three year reserved parking leases), has not proved a popular choice with either local residents or business users.

Council officers are disappointed that to date – despite a proactive marketing and advertising campaign carried out during the summer -only 25 of the spaces have found customers willing to pay the annual fee of £1,500 plus vat (and business rates for business users) in return for their exclusive use.

In view of this current lack of viability, the council is actively considering alternative uses for the site, which is ideally placed to access Sidmouth’s popular town centre amenities. Investing in social housing provision is a potentially interesting proposition, particularly as the site is opposite the Holmdale housing development - a highly successful affordable homes scheme, which recently provided 12 families with much needed new affordable homes in Sidmouth.

Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “We will have access to substantial Section 106 funding, so it would seem an ideal opportunity to invest this money in further social housing provision in Sidmouth town itself. We will presently be talking to our partners and looking into the feasibility of a new social housing scheme on this site. However, it is still our intention to continue to offer sufficient reserved car parking spaces at both Holmdale (which has 12 vacant spaces) and Mill Street  to meet the needs of our existing customers.

“A full analysis of the viability of Mill Street as a housing development will of course be carried out, with further reports going to Cabinet and consultation with interested parties will take place if the housing scheme that is being considered proceeds to planning application. If the housing scheme isn’t feasible, other options will be presented to councillors.”

Councillor Iain Chubb, Portfolio holder for the environment at East Devon, said: “While we are exploring the feasibility of a housing development, we are very aware that 33 unoccupied car parking spaces in Sidmouth town centre is not to anyone’s benefit.  We are therefore considering creating 33 temporary parking spaces to be made available to the public on a pay and display tariff in partnership with a private sector provider. This joint venture arrangement with a preferred partner would  utilise automatic number plate recognition camera technology to manage the use of these spaces.”

Councillor Jill Elson, Portfolio holder for sustainable housing and communities at East Devon, said: “Sidmouth is in acute need of more affordable housing for local families. The regeneration of this car park would help towards meeting this need. This is an opportunity that cannot be overlooked, particularly as we will have sufficient funding from 106 contributions with which to execute the works.”