Knowle relocation project: a variation on plans: of bats and demolition

“Of course we don’t know what impact the variation will have on the approved plans for development adjacent to the ‘bat building’. I’m not sure whether we should know that before approving this variation.”

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Back in March, the developers at Knowle sent out a letter to nearby residents:

Knowle relocation project: digging a hole on-site – Vision Group for Sidmouth

This was accompanied by a press release:

Knowle redevelopment is delayed | Sidmouth Herald

Developer ‘considering its options’ for former East Devon headquarters in Sidmouth | axminster.nub.news

The developers have just sent out a further letter to residents – one of whom has provided the VGS with a copy and a comment:

“I thought you might be interested to read this update about the Knowle site referring to plans for demolition and the on site ecology.”

A similar letter can also be seen on the District Council’s website:

21_2273_VAR-COVERING_LETTER-2075167.pdf

It is understood that an earlier application for a non-material amendment was rejected by planning officers. A ‘non-material amendment’ does not normally go to the planning committee because it is generally considered to be so minor – but, still it did not manage to get through.

The latest letter refers to a new application submitted on 27th August:

21/2273/VAR | Variation of conditions 2 (approved plans) and 10 (development carried out in accordance with bat mitigation strategy) of application 16/0872/FUL | Former Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL

It’s perhaps difficult not to be cynical – as the developer has sat on the site for some three years now:

Knowle relocation project: a summary of the issues – Vision Group for Sidmouth

It only made the final payment at the very last minute at the beginning of last year:

Knowle relocation project: BREAKING: developer pays up – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And it only made a move to fulfil its contractual obligations by starting to work on the site, also at the very last minute:

Knowle relocation project: digging a hole on-site – Vision Group for Sidmouth

It is clear from the latest letter that the developer is still keen to demolish the Victorian hotel – but this might be in order to make the site more ‘ready’ to sell on to another developer.

As one commentator has said to the VGS:

“They will recoup the cost by increasing the sale price to another developer with what will have become a more attractive site.”

There is still no inkling at all of any ‘development’ on the developer’s website:

Our Developments | Later Living Housing | Pegasus

It is also not too difficult to be cynical over the developer’s wishes to look after the bats in the maternity roost in the Victorian lodge:

Knowle Relocation Project: and greenwashing – Vision Group for Sidmouth

To finish, perhaps the most reasonable response has been voiced by one of the ward Councillors:

Comment Date: Thu 02 Sep 2021

I am happy to see more protection for the bats so have no objection to the variation in principle.
Of course we don’t know what impact the variation will have on the approved plans for development adjacent to the ‘bat building’. I’m not sure whether we should know that before approving this variation.
Cllr Cathy Gardner

21/2273/VAR | Variation of conditions 2 (approved plans) and 10 (development carried out in accordance with bat mitigation strategy) of application 16/0872/FUL | Former Council Offices Knowle Sidmouth EX10 8HL

   
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