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Sky Park near Exeter "preferred choice" for East Devon District Council HQ move

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

East Devon District Council HQ at Sidmouth

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East Devon District Council Cabinet members have recommended Sky Park near Exeter as the preferred site to relocate its headquarters to.

The decision, made at last night’s meeting, will now be put forward as the preferred location to full council on February 26.

If approved, officers will be asked to carry out further research into the viability of the move and marketing of its current base at Knowle, Sidmouth, would start promptly.

Council officers and councillors have described maintaining the current offices as a “struggle” and dubbed them “oversized and inefficient”.

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On the back of various surveys and assessments, deputy chief executive Richard Cohen said the council would save tens of thousands of pounds a year if its offices moved from the aging premises at Knowle into a newer building.

However campaign groups have branded the process as “flawed” and do not believe the move will be as cost effective as the council proclaim. In addition, they have concerns about a potentially adverse economic impact on Sidmouth.

In November cabinet shortlisted four out of 15 possible locations for new office accommodation: Cranbrook town centre, Skypark, two sites on Heathpark in Honiton and Clyst House, Winslade Park.

Following the shortlisting, cabinet asked for further evaluation of these locations, including further negotiation with developers and agents.

Last month, the Office Accommodation Executive Group considered the options – along with the options to stay at Knowle – and the two top scoring locations, Skypark and Clyst House, were presented to cabinet.

Council leader, Councillor Paul Diviani, said: “The two choices present quite different propositions, which obviously contributed to a rather lively, lengthy and well-informed debate.

“Clyst House is the cheapest option but also too big for our needs alone. Running costs could be high if we do not secure tenants and we could not secure BREEAM Excellent.

“Skypark, however, appears to offer a more secure future, delivering a new build designed to exact requirements and cost.

“The location exemplifies the council’s commitment to the Growth Point and represents a key emerging employment and commercial development location in the district.”

Councillor David Cox, portfolio holder for finance, added: “We are working hard to maintain our frontline services in face of ongoing financial challenges.

“We are also struggling to maintain an oversized, inefficient and low value headquarters on a site that has significant capital value as well as continued amenity value. So it makes sense to find new ways of creating efficiencies and generating income - and this involves managing and the realisation of our assets.”

Cabinet also approved plans for the sale and redevelopment of the council’s Heathpark site and will look at provision of business space elsewhere.

This decision will also be taken to full council and if approved, an alternative for a new business centre may need to be identified.

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