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Drill Hall: selling a ‘loo with a view’

  • by JW

“See if a better deal was available.” [EDDC Cabinet: 1st March 2023]

In Cornwall, “a loo with a view has sold for over EIGHT times the guide price at auction.” [ITV news: 20th March 2024]


There are several outstanding issues around the ‘finalised design plans’ for the Drill Hall.


Last September, Rockfish submitted their ‘finalised design plans’ for the Drill Hall – but with serious concerns voiced about the proposal by the District Council to sell off the public toilet block – as the land transferred in the original conveyance was registered as a charity in 1896 – with Sidmouth Town Council making up the Trustees:

EDDC cannot use it for the District, or even a range of things in Sidmouth which are not to do with supporting the particular charity. This is a worrying situation seeing that EDDC have publicly stated that they expect the Council to receive a capital sum from selling a lease to Rockfish. It is even more worrying for STC Councillors who, it would seem, are responsible as Trustees for making sure EDDC do not dispose of designated land belonging to the charity ( Ham Playing Field No 300967 )

In November last year, the Sidmouth seafront Rockfish plans were set for a go-ahead at the next planning committee meeting – which included the site of the Ham public toilets: 

The scheme would see the change of use of the former and unused Drill Hall to a restaurant and the demolition and replacement of the public toilets with additional dining space. External dining space is proposed as part of the dining room extension while a pair of replacement toilets are proposed within a standalone building to the rear of the extension.

But at the last minute, the Rockfish application for the Drill Hall withdrawn – the reason given that the Rockfish approval was now subject to a “flood action plan”.

Finally, earlier this month, it was being reported that the Sidmouth Rockfish loos and flood issues are still to be sorted.


Going back to February last year, Rockfish bid to buy the toilets as part of plans for their Sidmouth restaurant.

The public toilet block next to the Drill Hall. Photo courtesy of Blog – Sidmouth Drill Hall Rescue and published with permission. For another, older aerial view, see 1932-processed-websize.jpg

On 1st March, planning officers submitted a proposal to sell the Esplanade Toilets Sidmouth to Rockfish:

Rockfish are able to be considered as a special purchaser and the council is able to negotiate with them directly rather than take the site to the market. With this in mind, the council has obtained a market valuation of the site for a long leasehold interest of 125 years, taking into account the requirement to provide 2 accessible toilet cubicles within the site. The market value was assessed at £65,000. The council has now received an offer from Rockfish of £70,000 for a 125 year lease and there is a recommendation that this offer be accepted and Heads of Terms be entered into. Rockfish will need to review their design works for the site and the planning permission prior to commencing works on site. This will result in a delay to their programme, however the opportunity to include the toilet block in their refurbishment programme will result in a much enhanced restaurant offer on this site. 

At the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 1st March, disquiet was expressed:

Ian Barlow in his capacity as a Sidmouth resident, not on behalf of Sidmouth Town Council, spoke in regard to agenda item 12 on the Esplanade toilets in Sidmouth.  Whilst he supported Rockfish, he questioned why the number of toilets in the proposal was not higher; what were the implications if Rockfish ceased trading; why the Council could not rent the building instead. He felt that the site was undervalued based on his experience.  He stated that no councillors or officer take bribes, but this value looked difficult to the public and brings the Council into disrepute. He stated that the current planning permission was out of date anyway, so a new application was required. He asked for the Cabinet to see if a better deal was available.

The notion that the site is ‘undervalued’ and that ‘a better deal’ might be available might well be borne out by news from Cornwall this week – that a loo with a view has sold for over EIGHT times the guide price at auction:

A loo with a view has sold for a whopping £169,000 at auction, more than eight times its original guide price of £20,000. The public toilets on the seafront at Long Rock, which have picture postcard views of St Michael’s Mount and Mount’s Bay, were on the market with Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers, with an online auction finishing just after 1.30pm on Wednesday, March 20. As the auction went into its final hours, the scenic conveniences created a bidding war, with potential buyers apparently feeling flush. Ultimately, the winning bidder spent more than just a penny, splashing out £169K for the former loos with an incredible view. In January, Cornwall Council announced the “rare and exciting” opportunity to purchase the property and attached land near Penzance. The block of former loos is located on the coast path at Long Rock and boasts a ‘stunning sea view’.

This unprepossessing building has attracted national attention:

Council sells disused public toilet by beach for £169,000 at auction — more than eight times its valuation | The Sun

Loocation, loocation, loocation! Former toilet put up for sale for just £20,000 in Cornwall with charming sea views in ‘rare and exciting opportunity’ | Daily Mail Online

Toilet block with beach view of Mount’s Bay sells for almost £170k in Cornwall | ITV News West Country