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2013 Notes on Port Royal Developments

Notes of the 25 March meeting

At a brief positive meeting on Monday 25 March 2013 between Chair of Sidmouth Town Council (STC) Stuart Hughes and Chair-elect John Hollick, with Town Clerk Chris Holland and PRSG secretary Robert Crick it was agreed that:

  • STC will take the lead in engaging EDDC to develop positive plans on Port Royal using the PRSG document as a starting point,
  • recognising the importance  in decision-making of socially inclusive public participation through various community groups and a range of media
  • setting the discussion and decision-making in the context of the comprehensive needs of the town.

As a first step the Town Clerk Chris Holland will meet with Richard Cohen, who deals with big projects at EDDC. Mr Cohen is known to recognise and value the strength of community organisation and expertise available in the town to assist local government. So it is a genuine Fresh Start!

The Port Royal Steering Group in its PRSG Development Brief and its Appendices describe – but do not promote – a range of options including the detailed reworking of the Ham Lane car-parks along the lines suggested by the Arboretum Project and Richard Eley; the conservation and refurbishment of the Drill Hall, or its demolition to make way for a more expensive regeneration of the whole area while retaining current uses; the introduction of a jetty for waterborne transport links, etc. The only option ruled out on the grounds of physical constraints of geography and costs is a substantial marina.

Copies of the PRSG documents are available also in hard copy at the library, the museum and the town hall.

STC, having already accepted a proposal for the demolition of the Drill Hall, do not currently believe that proposals for its refurbishment put forward by Matt Booth’s Drill Hall group will be viable. However, EDDC have given this group the chance to find the funds and prepare a design brief.

I cited the example of the Tate St Ives and other initiatives that have succeeded against the odds, and recommended that STC should be ready to embrace the project if and when it achieves feasibility in terms of public acceptance and financial viability.

STC will not orchestrate official or community opposition to such a project, which should be given a fair hearing and wide encouragement. Meanwhile other options can also be explored.

In passing, I was advised that

  • a major bid for waterborne transport infrastructure has already been put forward by the Jurassic Coast (Dorset and East Devon) to the Coastal Communities Fund, and this is likely to take precedence over any other bids from this area, providing EDDC gets the environmental impact assessment in place. This would provide the long-desired jetty for Sidmouth. Simon Pollentine, who was a member of the PRSG in 2009-10, is the STC lead on this.
  • On the Sidford to Sidbury link for pedestrians, bicycles, buggies and wheelchairs three potential routes have been investigated by Devon County Council. Discussions with landowners have narrowed this down to one route which should be concluded in the near future, at a cost of about £1m, to get going, subject to planning consents, in 2014-15.
  • The Feniton link is a much bigger project scheduled for progression in 2015-18 with substantial funding from a range of sources coordinated through DCC.
  • The Local Transport Plan for Sidmouth has been delayed again by the immediate crises caused by flooding
  • We can only wait and see what EDDC decides to do, if anything, about its Local Development Plan
  • An independent initiative in Sidmouth for the development of a Town Plan or Neighbourhood Plan separate from the Port Royal and Eastern Town discussion was not on the agenda on Monday.