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Newsletter out, go and read it!

I send newsletters when something newsworthy happens which could affect the campaign to save Sidmouth Drill Hall. As many of you will know there are plans to demolish it, and other buildings around it, in the seafront Conservation Area and replace it with a block up to 5 storeys high.

The excellent news is that the Consultants are now going to look more carefully at the proposals which gives us more time to make our case for renewing the current buildings rather than replacing them.

Encouraging News  newsletter

You can sign up for the newsletter on any page of the Drill Hall Rescue site. Or read about the history on the sister site.

Heritage and the Economy

Historic England have just published the 2017 Heritage Counts report, and it should be required reading for our Councillors, especially the Sidmouth ones.

This is an extract
Local heritage assets can play a critical role in successful regeneration projects. Heritage-led regeneration projects are where a new viable economic use is found for historic buildings, offering owners or developers a return on their investment whilst maintaining the conservation value of the heritage asset. (Deloitte, 2017).

Investing in the historic environment generates economic returns for local places.
On average, £1 of public sector expenditure on heritage-led regeneration generates £1.60 additional economic activity over a ten year period (AMION and Locum Consulting, 2010).
People spend more in their local economy after investment in the historic environment
– In areas that had received investment in the historic environment, approximately one in five visitors in a survey of 1,000 stated they spent more in an area after investment in the historic environment than they did before. One in four businesses stated that the historic environment investment had directly led to an increase in business turnover (AMION and Locum Consulting, 2010).

There are so many things we could do to boost our local economy by building on (historic) buildings!
Architecture could be used to power all sorts of activities to boost visitor numbers so why aren’t we capitalising on it?

Come and join us

Would you like to join us?

Do you want to sign up to the Drill Hall Rescue Newsletter (including information about Port Royal)? Or to Retain-Refurbish-Reuse Bulletin?

Nothing could be easier! Both sites now have MailChimp sign-up forms on the right-hand side of the webpages. We use MailChimp because it allows you to unsubscribe easily if you decide you are no longer interested and it stops us accidentally adding you from any other of our lists you sign up to. MailChimp remembers who has unsubscribed.

So visit


And add your email to our growing lists.

(Click on the pic )

Confused again, sigh!

On the 21st Sept there was a meeting of the Reference Group, which are the people who are supposed to be helping the Scoping Exercise Consultants for Port Royal understand what the town wants and what has been considered before.

I thought this meeting was to consider the ‘proposals’ of a concept building described to the public back at the end of June. But it seems as thought I was once again confused, this concept has still not been kicked into the long grass!

From the Press Release ( which I have found on the EDDC site but not managed to track down on STC) it would appear to have been a meeting about the results of the survey which closed at the end of July. This survey was a very poor specimen of its type, all the questions were built on the assumption that a major redevelopment of replacing every building currently there WOULD happen.

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The Neighbourhood Plan had over 1,800 responses, and included a section about Port Royal: the Retain-Refurbish-Reuse petition collected over 1,800 signatures in favour of renewing current facilities. Yet the press release trumpets their outstanding success at getting 250 people or organisations to complete the survey, and seems to think that their results are more trustworthy than those in the Neighbourhood Plan survey.

Surely the mere 250 respondents shows what a bad survey it is rather than indicating a lack of willingness to get involved? This survey should be a source of shame and the results should be given little weight.Some respondents took the time to express their disgust with the standard of the survey, I do hope those comments will be released too when the time comes.

They say in the press release ‘ It is clear too that, in the main, the people of Sidmouth would like to see bars and restaurants as a feature of any proposed development and that the Lifeboat Station is integral to future plans. A new multi-function facility which could host water activity and The Sailing Club ….’ They are right about the Lifeboat, but other surveys don’t show an appetite for a new multifunction facility to improve things for the Sailing Club and also host other water activities there too. There is a lot of interest in increasing the water activities available at Port Royal but that interest is by no means tied to the Sailing Club, and shouldn’t be. Joining them together decreases design options and creates unnecessary limitations.

According to the Neighbourhood Plan surveys restaurants have mixed levels of support and bars are not mentioned strongly either!

So, should we believe what we are told without seeing the evidence to back it up, or should we believe the results of more open and longer term consultations? Should we believe experts or grass roots? Such a confusing decision 😉

September newsletter out

Find the newsletter archive which now includes the most recent epistle.

If you find them informative then please sign up and get your friends to do so too! The 3Rs campaign is not yet in a position to send newsletters (coming soon ) so until then the Drill Hall letter is the best bet for news about Port Royal.

I’d like to remind everyone that the Drill Hall Research Site is not just about the Drill Hall but about the whole of Eastern Town. The two Drill Hall sites together give a comprehensive background to Port Royal and contain links to the other groups (like Sidmouth Vision Group ) who have done relevant work in the past. The SVG work was at least as extensive as that put together by Scoping Exercise Consultants and they gave a range of possible solutions too! And for free.

Strategy since at least 2013?

While wandering through the internet I have come across a statement from 2013, apparently setting out Sidmouth Conservatives’ strategy regarding Port Royal.

I want to make clear that this is not a comment aimed at a political party, I have no allegiance to any political group, but it is noteworthy because most of our Councillors are Conservative and this sheds light on how the group is thinking perhaps.

The comment can be found on Devon Conservative site, which despite the name of the website seems to belong to Stuart Hughes. I can not work out whether it is a personal platform or somewhere that gives an outlet for a group, or both, perhaps Stuart will clarify at some stage. I copy the comment below: reminding people that it is from 2013 and things may have changed.

To members of our electorate (Sidmouth Town, Sidmouth Sidford, and Sidmouth Rural Wards)
As your East Devon District Council representatives for Sidmouth we write in response to many discussions, comments and statements which have circulated regarding the Drill Hall, Knowle, employment land and housing provision.
Firstly, we would like to reassure everyone we have listened, consulted and taken on board the numerous comments since calling the EDDC meeting at (Stowford Community Centre), (Annual Town Council Assembly) and the special extra ordinary Town Council meeting held at EDDC recently.
Our view is a united one and we have separated each of the following responses for clarity.

The Drill Hall
We will call for a full development brief for the whole of the Port Royal site, in consultation with Sidmouth Town and East Devon District Council. We will thoroughly examine this to ensure a suitable and beneficial development takes place and incorporates a full redevelopment scheme suited to the surrounding area.

There were other sections but I am not interested in those for the purposes of this blog. My interest is on the phrase ‘a full redevelopment scheme‘. Usually this refers to ‘knock down and build a big building‘, I wonder if this has been the idea all along?

Neighbourhood Plan survey

As you probably know the Neighbourhood Plan team worked very hard and quickly to get the results for the Port Royal section of their survey sorted out.

They can be found on the Council website or on their own website.

The Port Royal section of their results can be found on this page.

The summary of data shows in graph and pie chart form what people mentioned in the open text boxes of Q19 and Q22 and other questions in the section.

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It makes interesting reading, especially when some people who seem to dislike the idea of retaining buildings take results out of context. For example in Q19, which was about what people didn’t want to see there, keeping the Drill Hall was mentioned slightly more times than removing it (6 people to 5 people). That would suggest more people want it demolished than kept. However, in Q22, which was about what should be retained, Heritage and old buildings were mentioned by 83 people, renovating the Drill Hall was mentioned by 58 people; where the Gig and Sea Angling clubs had 20 and 19 mentions respectively.

To take that to mean people weren’t bothered about retaining those facilities would be silly, all it means is that there wasn’t a specific question about them and so people may not have thought of mentioning them. After all, only 5 people mentioned sea defences but I know none of us want the town flooded!

The only way we will get an answer as to whether people want to retain or demolish the Drill Hall is to ask exactly that.

Want to talk dirty?

In one word … sewage!

It is common knowledge in Sidmouth that there is ‘something to do with sewage’ under The Ham, but of course as it is underground you can’t see it. You can however view the plans from 2001, which I think was the last time the sewage system was updated.

There have been recent vague mutterings about how people have been ‘worrying unnecessarily’ as the sewage system prevents building on The Ham. Of course neither I nor anyone else linked with the 3Rs campaign has ever said that such building would occur. We are sticking closely to the ideas put forward by the Consultants when we discuss what might happen.

If you want to see more about what is under the Ham then click the picture.

Port Royal Consultation Boards June 2017

The survey on the Port Royal proposals has now closed, and the images of the Boards which were displayed at the Public Consultation have been removed from the EDDC website.

In order that they are still available for viewing I have placed them on a page on my website. To go there click the picture below.

The Ham and the Drill Hall

Mr Radford bought part of The Ham meadow in 1888 and other parts were sold for building. Glen Isla Terrace (now Glenisla Terrace) and Riverside Road were built on two of the building plots.

The Ham at that time sloped down to the level of the Sid river on the east and to the beach on the south. The demarcation between The Ham and the shore would have been the high tide mark. The Esplanade also dropped to sea level at this point.

Old photographs and prints show that the Esplanade, as a high bank promenade, first existed at the west end of Sidmouth. As the popularity of the town as a health resort increased then the walk was continued eastward. When the York Hotel was built on the east side of Fore Street, along with the rest of the terrace of 4 buildings, the walk was raised in front of it. Before these buildings were erected the land was used as a ship building yard and the boats were launched from the shingle. A smooth rather than a sharp drop was helpful in launching!

The original Lifeboat Station stood on the west corner of Ham Lane rather than where it is now on the east corner. Opposite that station there was a launch ramp which at one stage was the end of the Esplanade. Then when the Manager of the Gas Works built East Cliff House as his home ( where the Sailing Club building is now) the Esplanade was extended again.

In 1895 the Drill Hall was built, and the road was extended to be level with the entrance. The seaward part of the sea front was a rough tumble of land and there was a very steep slope from the Drill Hall entrance down to sea level at the hall’s eastern side. A retaining wall stopped this slope on the northern edge, to protect access to the boat storage under the hall.

This is the earliest photograph I have of the Drill Hall. The new Alma Bridge was built in 1900 and the old bridge is shown here. This photograph must therefore have been taken during the first four years of the Drill Hall’s life. The sharp shadow cast by the retaining wall on the north of the slope is clearly visible, as is the height of the piled ground at the end of the Esplanade.