District council HQ plans are approved

PUBLISHED: 14:15 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 08:53 17 November 2016

Proposed new headquarters for East Devon District Council.

Proposed new headquarters for East Devon District Council.

Archant

East Devon District Council's (EDDC) proposed new HQ on Honiton's Heathpark estate is set to become a reality after receiving approval from planning chiefs.

The plans were scrutinised at the council’s development management committee (DMC) last week, before being unanimously backed.

The new office complex features a building of approximately 2,600sqm, complete with a cycle store and smoking shelter.

The designs allow for a staff car park and loading bay, with a provision for 135 car parking spaces and a pedestrian and cycle route from Exeter Road to the Heathpark estate.

As well as providing three floors of offices, the building will comprise a public chamber, public and officer meeting areas, meeting and member rooms, and welfare facilities for staff.

Despite the unanimous approval, the plans faced some criticism from Councillor Mike Howe, vice-chairman of the DMC, who raised concerns about the aesthetic of the complex. He said: “The disappointment is that when we asked for a good standard of architecture, this, to me, falls foul as soon as it reaches the roofline.

“Everything else I don’t have a problem with, in a strange way. I just hope we could have got the roof right. It certainly won’t win any awards for architecture - that’s for sure.”

Cllr Helen Parr was ‘very pleased’ to see that the plans include a section of green space and that the trees are being retained, but queried where solar panels would be fitted on the building. She added: “I don’t think the height of the building is going to affect anyone.”

Recommending approval to the committee, officers said: “It is considered that the design, while of reasonable quality and attractiveness, is a missed opportunity to establish a truly high-quality public building on this site. Design is, however, highly subjective and public finances limit what can be achieved in this case.”

The officers said redevelopment of the vacant site would be a ‘significant gain’ for the town in planning and economic terms.

The news of the plans’ approval has also been hailed by EDDC’s leader, Cllr Paul Diviani, who, after the meeting, said he was ‘delighted’ by the decision.

Cllr Diviani added: “This is great news for residents, our staff and councillors. The council has taken an important step forward in its commitment to being an even more cost-effective and successful local authority.”

Once it leaves its ‘not fit for purpose’ current HQ at Knowle in Sidmouth, EDDC will be split between Honiton and Exmouth, where it is moving into the town hall to house the breadth of its customer services.

Refurbishment of the Exmouth premises is currently under way.

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