Council reflects on positive effects of move to Blackdown House in Honiton after one year in residence

It is now a year since the council moved from its antiquated headquarters in Sidmouth (in February 2019) to purpose built modern offices in Honiton and refurbished premises in Exmouth.

At the council’s March Cabinet meeting, councillors will consider a report that reflects on the move and what it has achieved. 

Having spent over 40 years in Sidmouth, East Devon District Council can already say that in just one year the move to modern offices has saved money, reduced the council’s environmental impact and been a positive change for its workforce. 

The organisation has just succeeded in achieving Investor in people’s Platinum level accreditation - the highest award possible and something only 2% of organisations achieve. In addition, the council’s brand new building, Blackdown House, has achieved a BREEAM ‘Very Good’ sustainability rating.   

On top of this, the contract that the council negotiated with the buyers of its old Knowle site in Sidmouth has given the council a final payment of £9 million, which is 20% higher (£1.5m in cash) than the original offer price of £7.5m. 

It should also be noted that the council has not had to take up any long term borrowing to fund the Blackdown House project.  All the savings go back into the council’s operation and services rather than on any debt repayment or interest. 

Over the years, the council has attracted a significant amount of criticism for its decision to invest in modern offices. However, in the end it has proved to have been a good decision, achieving savings every year from Year 1, as well making a positive environmental impact and a modern workplace.

Cllr Geoff Pook, Portfolio Holder for Asset Management said:

Financially, environmentally and operationally the council has made the right move.  We are now based in twin sites: in the heart of Exmouth, our biggest town by far, and in Honiton, a central point in the geography of East Devon. 

The first year of operation at the new offices has already given the council an annual saving of £192,000 compared to its previous Sidmouth headquarters. This saving and future savings will go back into running the council and delivering its services. By leaving its old Sidmouth offices the council has also avoided £1.94m of repair and maintenance costs, which would have been needed to keep the old building going.

The climate is benefitting as well.  By making the move from its outdated offices, in the first year alone, East Devon has reduced its CO2 emissions by 80% and cut its water, electricity and gas bills by 44% overall.