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Drill Hall and toilet/shelter

  • by MWT

Planning application granted with conditions

At the Council meeting on the 18th June EDDC gave planning permission for Rockfish’s new plans for the Drill Hall including the demolition of the very useful toilet and shelter block which was erected around 1929 when the Port Royal and Ham area underwent a huge and costly renovation.

The Planning application reference is 23/1657/FUL and from that page you can see all the documents associated with the different applicaions which have been made and the comments from the Council’s Officers, Statutory Bodies ( those organisations which have to be consulted on an application like this, for example the Environment Agency) and members of the public. You can see that twice the number of members of the public objected to the loss of the shelter block as those who thought the trade off was worth it: but fewer people commented officially than have been commenting on Facebook.

The report given to EDDC Councillors in November 2023 and the one for June 2024 can also be found from the link to the application (above); direct links will not work so can’t be given! It is possible to take issue with several interpretations within these documents of the stipulations of the Neighbourhood Plan and they have also ignored it when it suited them, however their justification is that EDDC went though a review of toilet provision in East Devon and concluded they could not afford to retain toilet provision at the Ham.

This justification, even if it is accepted, does not justify removal of the seating in a roofed shelter especially as EDDC hold that land under the provisions of the Conveyance from John George Galloway Radford (Solicitor) to Sidmouth Urban District Council in 1896 which is the Governing Document of The Ham Playing Fields Charity number 300967. The website of the Charity Commission no longer shows the full details of the Governing Document but it used to, so we can be certain it is the same document as shown here. This Conveyance specifically states that the land is to be used for the purposes of a pleasure grounds freely available and dedicated to the use of residents of and visitors to Sidmouth. The Land Registry document confirms that EDDC holds the land under the terms of this Conveyance
C: Charges Register
This register contains any charges and other matters that affect the land.
1 (21.12.1992) A Conveyance of the land tinted pink on the filed plan dated 26 March 1896 made between

(1) John George Galloway Radford and (2) The Urban District Council
and you can see a copy of this document here with the map from the Land Registry here. Unfortunately, with many reorganistations of the Land Registry, this map document has been lost and so the only evidence we have is the certified copy from years ago. Sidmouth Town Council as Trustees held the original document and map and they had reportedly been lodged whith their Solicitors where it was lost in the 1970s. It took many years for these copies to be unearthed from the documents from the estate of Mr Radford.

The results of this research has been shared repeatedly with both Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council but neither have taken steps to avoid this demolition. STC say that their legal advice is that they have no powers over people who now own parts of the land conveyed. The toilet/shelter and the land it stands on passed into the hands of EDDC because they had responsibility for public toilets when Sidmouth Urban District Council was reorganised into EDDC and STC.

Rockfish’s application removes freely available toilets and covered shelter and exchanges it for shelter as part of the business (which you will have to be a customer to use) and a wholly insufficient two cubicle public toilet. This is not upholding the intentions of the Governing Document of the Charity. EDDC stated that this provision would be supplemented by extra toilets in the Ham East car park by the Swimming Pool but the planning application for those has been refused twice so far. Such toilets would, amongst other things, reduce parking.

Given that this is a very important loss to both Sidmouth residents and visitors it is surprising that EDDC did not announce it in their Decisions on key Planning Applications weekly bulletin this week alongside the information about the approval of the application for the Lifeboat Station. Are they hoping we won’t notice?