Buying the Drill Hall?

EDDC will start marketing the Drill Hall somewhere around the 1st May 2018, the process will close on the same date in October or November 2018. The reason for this is that Councils are required to give 6 months to allow a community to get a bid together to buy an asset, if the community has shown an interest.

This whole thing started in 2012 when EDDC wanted to knock down the Drill Hall leaving a rubble filled area which could have been used for temporary parking of boats or cars.

Matt Booth took up the cudgels and started a campaign to save it, a petition was the first step followed by the incorporation of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC ( Community Interest Company). Although much was achieved by SDHH the focus moved away from saving the Drill Hall and into promoting community interest in Sidmouth’s fishing heritage.

In 2013 EDDC’s application to demolish the hall was withdrawn, possibly influenced by the report from their Conservation Officer who pointed out that an historic building in a Conservation area could only be demolished if compelling reasons could be shown! At this stage very little was known about the history of the Drill Hall or the fact that the interior had been changed very little. With most Drill Halls it is the internal structure which has been lost.

A Scoping Exercise was set up in 2017 and you can find all the information about that and the results of it on the appropriate section of this site, under ‘Port Royal Thoughts’. Also check the ‘Useful Documents‘ page. In brief, it was ‘discovered’ that they couldn’t knock down everything and sell it off to a developer for millions: their cherished golden goose had turned out to be a white elephant.

The newly upgraded Flood Zone, the need to do archaelogical surveys of the ground which was part of the Sid delta at one time and the fact they couldn’t requisition part of the Ham (because it is Charity ground covered by the strict terms of the original conveyance), combined with public outrage, stopped them in their tracks.

The 3Rs campaign has a website and although much of the information is now out of date ( as is that at SDHH ) make sure to have a look at  this page, it brings together a lot of useful information.

So here we are: what do you need to know if you are considering a new use for the Drill Hall?

Take a look at the floor plans here , see if the space lends itself to your ideas. Look at the interior photographs from 2017.
Read about the important features you will need to know about before you fix on designs or apply for grants. Like the fact that electricity and water come from the Esplanade, there is already a connection to the drains, the arches to the basement used to be open so that boats could be stored there, other information about the Building , the Architect , general history.
Familiarise yourself with why the Drill Hall is valued.

If you have read about the Scoping Exercise and its aftermath, and become familiar with the useful documents (that is,  all the links above) then ………..

The first thing is to get together a group of people who are willing to form a board for a company, a community interest company or charity. Then you need to form the CIC or charity. This of course only applies if you are not some sort of Corporate Entity already.

Next you need to consider ways of raising money to buy or lease the building, depending on what options EDDC is offering. At the moment it appears that the site will be offered without any preconceptions as to whether the building should be reused or replaced but I have not heard if it will be freehold. Money can be raised from grants and loans, public gifts or the sale of shares. Matt Booth has now put up a help section on his site, it talks about things I am not qualified to.

There are good guides about how to apply for grants from The Prince’s Regeneration Trust and the Architectural Heritage Fund, they may also help you find funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

When you read these guides you see that in a case like reusing the Drill Hall you will need to be able to give all sorts of information about the building and its past. I am very happy to put together this part of any grant application.

I am totally committed to getting the building preserved and brought back into use with its interior features intact.
I would prefer it if internal and external features which have been lost were reinstated or referenced in any refurbishment but I am reasonably flexible on this. I will give my help to any proposals unless they contravene this position.

I have much more information in my head and computer than has made it on to either of these Drill Hall sites so please ask questions.

I have been involved in creating a variety of designs suitable for the Drill Hall since 2014 and have considered many uses, please contact me if you feel the work I have already done might be able to save you time, money or effort!