District and town councils to discuss town site next week

The scoping study of Sidmouth’s Port Royal area is now completed and reports have been published for both councils to decide the way forward.

A core group of councillors representing both authorities, have considered the findings of the study and recommendations are being made to both councils in separate reports being published today. (Monday January 29)

Sidmouth Town Council will consider its report on Monday February 5 and East Devon District Council’s Cabinet will discuss the issue on Wednesday February 7.

The scoping study has provided both councils with a level of detail and analysis of the area which has not been previously available and this wealth of knowledge has given both authorities, who are each landowners in the area, a clear foundation on which to decide how to move ahead.

The eastern end of Sidmouth has, for many years now, been a focus of town interest because of its comparatively run down nature. What both councils have learnt from this study is that renewal of the area is important to local people but brings with it some particular challenges which include:

  • The increased risk of flood to the area and the as yet to be resolved outcomes of the ongoing Beach Management Plan process 
  • A lack of financial viability of large scale mixed-use  development on this location if affordable homes were included on or off-site
  • An existing covenant with a boundary which creates uncertainty on parts of the potential development area

With these complexities in mind, it is recommended to the councils that they do not pursue a comprehensive mixed-use site development.

At the same time, the general consensus during last summer's consultation process in the town was that improvement needs to happen. To that end, the district council is being asked to endorse a proposal that new opportunities are sought for the redundant drill hall site at Port Royal whilst the town council focuses on improvements to the appearance and usage of the Fishermen's sheds and Fish shop area.

In regards to drill hall, East Devon District Council, as owner of the site, would carry out a marketing exercise seeking appropriate uses that would add attraction to the area such as a high quality restaurant / bar development or similar.

Marketing such a site to the commercial sector would normally be a three-month process. However, the Cabinet report recognises the community-based interest in the scoping study, and in this site in particular. So to encourage funding bids from commercial and non-commercial sources alike, the marketing period proposed will be doubled to six months.

The active uses at Port Royal, in particular the lifeboat and sailing clubs, will be unaffected by this proposed way forward and their premises will remain and not be part of a wider development plan. With this in mind, the council will be able to talk to these important community users about securing their longer term prospects.

Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said:

Sidmouth has waited long enough to see something happen on this site and both councils want to see improvement and new attractions for Sidmouthians and visitors alike. Both councils have worked exceptionally well together on this project.

Cllr Jeff Turner of Sidmouth Town Council said:

I believe the Sidmouth public will welcome the approach being recommended. It will provide opportunities for renewal of the Drill Hall site and, in particular, the possibility of our seafront benefitting from the new restaurant and bar attractions that emerged as popular choices in responses to the scoping study and the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan surveys. At the same time, both the lifeboat station and the Sailing Club and boat park will remain unaffected.