Wednesday, 24 July 2013

EDDC Office Accommodation – key decision

The minutes of last week's District Council cabinet meeting to decide on its relocation project have been published. 
Here's the summary of the report and ensuing discussion:

EDDC Office Accommodation – key decision

Richard Cohen, Deputy Chief Executive presented his report on options to address 
the Council’s future accommodation requirements. 

Since the Development Management Committee (1 March 2013) had refused the 
application for alternative use of the Knowle site, work had continued on the viability 
analysis of various options:

 Remaining at the Knowle in a reconfigured form
 Honiton options
 Relocation to Cranbrook
 Other sites in the district

The viability analysis identified that remaining at the Knowle site was not a 
sustainable option as the ‘outdated’ offices were not fit for purpose and costly to run. 

The report included the Council’s continued commitment to
 providing fit for purpose and functional office accommodation that placed no 
extra burden on the East Devon tax-payer, and,
 to maintaining a significant presence in Exmouth. 

The option to move would use capital receipts from the sale of the Knowle and, if 
required, prudential borrowing up to a maximum of £4.8M (the calculated savings on 
running costs over the 20 years following the move).

Key overall risks within the project were noted by Cabinet together with how these 
would be managed. The calculations included a 20% contingency. 

The public speaker had stated that the carbon cost of relocation would take 50 years to 

The Deputy Chief Executive challenged this statement. He said that although there 
would be an inevitable carbon cost, this needed to be balanced over time and the 
argument was out-weighed by the energy efficiencies of new offices. A more accurate 
calculation would be 11 years. One of the key drivers for the proposed relocation was 
the high running costs and essential maintenance required at Knowle. However, the 
project was not just about the need to save money; it would help facilitate improved, 
modern, efficient service provision.

The Deputy Chief Executive also advised that the ‘new’ part of the existing Knowle 
complex did not have the capacity to accommodate all EDDC staff and so the 
associated suggestion to sell off the historic part entirely for residential use was not 

The reasons for refusal of the Knowle application considered by the Development 
Management Committee on 1 March 2013 had been taken into account and it was 
now proposed to limit potential development on the Knowle site to 3 zones – the lower 
park and lower car park zones had been removed from the development proposal. 
This was an important change that addressed local concerns and retained the site’s
viability as it continued to be attractive to developers. Use of Manstone Depot within 
the development proposals would meet the development’s affordable housing 

The Project Viability report identified key milestones (Gateway Decisions) which 
would require EDDC approval to progress to the next stage of the project. The 
timeline for relocation was set out in the report. Alternative sites might come forward 
during the process and these would be given proper consideration.

During debate on the report the following points were made:

 Members welcomed the clear and helpful report and praised Richard Cohen, 
Deputy Chief Executive and Stephen Pratten, Relocation Manager, for their 
work. The report had been well presented with clear options and reasoning.
 Moving the discussion to the public domain was welcomed
 The impact of the Office move on Sidmouth would be taken into account
 The move had the potential to create jobs elsewhere in the district
 The carbon cost of the move would be taken seriously but put in perspective
 Many of the offices in Knowle were inadequate for modern business
 It would be better to invest in new purpose built facilities than waste money in 
trying to maintain out of date, costly office space which was not fit for purpose
 The proposal would preserve parkland at Knowle for the benefit of the local 
community. The grounds were currently not used much by the public and the 
proposed transfer to the Sidmouth Town Council could result in their wider 
 Reducing the development zones from 5 to 3 was welcomed.
 The process would have been less difficult if the Council had carried out earlier 
consultations with local residents and stakeholders
 The proposed stages in developing the project and the monitoring that would 
be in place was helpful and reassuring
 The Knowle was a prestigious building and the parkland was beautiful
 Although the report suggested options to relocate to Honiton and Cranbrook, 
the Council would retain an open mind and consider other options that may 
come forward during the process.
 The new offices should be located centrally and use made of local ‘hubs’.
 The East Devon Business Centre was a good example of an office base for 
mobile working. A similar approach could be adopted for the local ‘hubs’ which 
could also offer local employment opportunities.
 The Council needed to be able to take advantage of new ways of working and 
increased use of technology to improve service delivery and achieve 

The Leader thanked the Cabinet and other Members present for their valued 
contribution to the debate. He confirmed that the impact on Sidmouth would be taken 
into account and that ways ameliorate this would be considered. Jobs would not be 
lost from the district as a result of the proposed move. He believed that the proposed 
move from the Knowle was positive and would benefit the whole district.

The vote on the recommendations set out in the report was supported unanimously by 
the Cabinet. 

www.eastdevon.gov.uk/cabinet_mins_170713.pdf p18-19

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