MP Hugo backs Exmouth EDDC jobs - but calls for a delay

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

East Devon MP Hugo Swire has supported the idea of East Devon District Council (EDDC) relocating some of its services to Exmouth.

However, he has told the council that it should put its project to move from Knowle in Sidmouth on hold.

EDDC is planning to split itself between Exmouth Town Hall and Honiton in 2017, after previous plans to relocate to SkyPark, near Exeter, fell through.

Mr Swire has contacted Conservative council leader Paul Diviani to say he does not want EDDC to move to Honiton – as it is outside his constituency – and thinks ‘more intelligent ways’ of using Knowle should be explored.

Tory Mr Swire’s entry into the relocation debate follows an effort by independent councillor Claire Wright to delay the project until after May’s elections.

Mr Swire said: “The prudent thing to do is put everything on hold and not proceed at this stage.

“As MP for East Devon, I would be very unhappy if it moved outside my constituency.

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“Sidmouth is at the heart of my constituency, but I would support some of the district council jobs going to Exmouth.”

Mr Swire said that he felt the time was not right for a move, with EDDC recently agreeing closer links with Exeter City Council, adding that the authority should see how the structure of, and funding for, local government pans out before making a move.

In the meantime, he advised that EDDC looks at other, more cost effective, ways of using the current building, such as possibly shrinking the site.

However, Councillor Diviani says he will not back down - especially after the plans got the go-ahead from full council. He said: “We are at a stage in what has been a long process in moving out of Sidmouth. There is nothing happening in a rush and nothing that has not been thought about very carefully.”

Cllr Wright, who is running for parliament at the next general election, has welcomed the intervention from Mr Swire, her electoral rival.

She said: “The plans do not make financial sense, nor have most of the decisions been open and transparent.”