A BID to save the district council’s HQ from development by having it recognised as a national gem has been rejected.

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The ruling clears a hurdle to plans to move some of the district council’s services to Exmouth Town Hall with most of the HQ moving to Honiton.

English Heritage has ruled East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) offices and surrounding parkland, The Knowle in Sidmouth, cannot be listed - as the edges of the historic site have already been eroded by dwellings, many owned by protesters.

Conservation experts recognise the land is highly valued by the community, and of “clear local interest”, but turned down a plea aimed at safeguarding it from the bulldozers.

The application was made by one of the protesters against proposals to develop the site with 50 homes and a care facility as part of a wider plan for the authority to relocate to Honiton.

News has come as a blow to campaigners who have vowed to carry on their fight regardless.

A report sets out why the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport decided not to list the Knowle’s buildings and grounds.

English Heritage also opted not to add the site to the Register of Parks and Gardens.

The body ruled not enough of the Knowle’s original landscape was left to warrant national recognition. Designation chiefs also concluded that what remains of the original house and hotel does not demonstrate the high level of architectural design needed.

The report reveals: “A large part of the original garden has been lost through housing development, particularly on the south, west and north edges of the garden, which has led to the loss of large parts of the landscape design.”

It concludes: “The alterations that have occurred both to the gardens and the house mean that neither meets the criteria for designation in a national context, though they are evidently highly-valued by the local community.”

Jeremy Woodward, of Temple Street, made the application and has vowed to appeal the decision.

He said: “It’s very disappointing indeed, considering that bodies such as the Devon Gardens Trust and the national SAVE Britain’s Heritage organisation have come out very strongly against the destruction of these prime assets.”

Campaigner Alan Darrant: “It’s far from the end of the story. We’re certainly not seeing this as a case breaker.”

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