A record of the process from recommendation to conclusion.

All the background to this process can be found in the Port Royal Thoughts section under the Background Reading heading on the navigation menu.

I commissioned a report from a Structural Engineer it is  available here

A change in text colour on this page usually indicates a link to further information.

EDDC is East Devon District Council; JLL is the marketing firm; STC is Sidmouth Town Council.

30th August 2019

To say that I am disappointed in the decision made last Wednesday by the Planning Committee of Sidmouth Town Council would be somewhat of an understatement!

As can be seen here in the minutes of the meeting they didn’t even make their approval subject to the agreement of the Conservation Officers, they specify that with the plan for the Museum extension which will be much less visible.

When you go to leave a comment on the online planning portal you are asked to choose if your stance is ‘Object’, ‘Support’, or ‘Neutral’. It is therefore clearly understood that people may approve of some bits but not of others, and may wish to say so. Why didn’t our Councillors take this opportunity?

Cllr Rayson objected to the plan as he believed it was out of keeping with the Conservation Area. Cllrs Dent, Loudoun and Thompson were unable to be present so they can not be held responsible either. It is Cllrs Turner, Barlow, Barratt, Manley, Ware and Hounsom who seem to believe that their position should be that of supplicants to EDDC rather than an important voice of protection for the town.
I know that Town Councillors can not make planning decisions, that they can only give their views in the same way as any member of the public can. However, they have each been elected by people in the town and each one of them speaks for many. The Committee represents the Council as a whole so their pronouncements hold much greater weight than a single voice from a member of the public. Their responsibilities are therefore much greater too.

So why could they not have added, to their list of things which they thought important, the fact that the current design did not match the characteristics of the Conservation Area nor fit with the emerging Neighbourhood Plan which (according to the Government website) is now a material consideration in the Planning process? It may be that they felt it unnecessary to do so because they assumed someone else would be dealing with those bits, but it wouldn’t have harmed to draw further attention to them.

EDDC Development Management Committee ignored the very detailed Conservation Officers’ advice and approved the changes to a Grade II Listed building on High Street so there doesn’t seem much likelihood that this unlisted building on the Esplanade, even though it is bordering on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, will be treated with greater understanding.

On the above application at least two of Sidmouth’s Councillors on the East Devon District Council supported the plan, and STC Councillors remarked:
SUPPORT subject to the agreement of the Conservation Officer.
NOTE: The members asked that the Conservation Officer takes into consideration the needs of the economy of the town when looking at this application and not just the conservation area issues.
These comments, about looking at the economy not just Conservation, were no doubt put forward about Rockfish at the Drill Hall too; but seem strange when our economy is mainly reliant on our state of conservation. Do they think Rockfish will pull out, after spending all this money, if the design has to be adapted to fit the Conservation Area?

If Sidmouth Councillors don’t care about preserving the character of the Town Conservation Area and Esplanade why do they think that East Devon District Council in general will?

23rd August 2019

The link to the new Design, Access and Heritage document has been corrected below.

They have removed the copyright pictures and have corrected the errors I pointed out to them, apart from the fact that they still do not mention the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan which will go to referendum on 19th Sept 2019.

This is despite the fact that Section70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) provides that a local planning authority must have regard to a post-examination draft neighbourhood development plan. The weight to be given to the Neighbourhood Plan before it is ‘made’, that is passed at Referendum, should be almost as much as a ‘made’ plan; because it has been assessed and passed not only by the Local Authority but by an independent examiner. This means that it is legally sound and in compliance with the Local Development Plan

They have not corrected any errors which I did not point out to them, so they have taken my freely given help yet refuse to discuss matters with me. This means that many errors, omissions and contradictions still exist.

I want to help this application be acceptable and to pass smoothly through the Planning process. However, if they refuse to take into account planning requirements, the rules governing Conservation Areas and the emerging Neighbourhood Plan then I will oppose the elements which do not comply.

Further reading

1    Pages 29, 33, 36, of the Neighbourhood Planning document published by Locality

2    Government guidance on Neighbourhood Plans including Paragraph 48 which reads

What weight can be attached to an emerging neighbourhood plan when determining planning applications?

Planning applications are decided in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. It is for the decision maker in each case to determine what is a material consideration and what weight to give to it.

An emerging neighbourhood plan is likely to be a material consideration in many cases. Paragraph 48 of the revised National Planning Policy Framework sets out that weight may be given to relevant policies in emerging plans in decision taking. Factors to consider include the stage of preparation of the plan and the extent to which there are unresolved objections to relevant policies. A referendum ensures that the community has the final say on whether the neighbourhood plan comes into force as part of the development plan. Where the local planning authority publishes notice of a referendum, the emerging neighbourhood plan should be given more weight, while also taking account of the extent of unresolved objections to the plan and its degree of consistency with NPPF. The consultation statement submitted with the draft neighbourhood plan should reveal the quality and effectiveness of the consultation that has informed the plan proposals. All representations on the proposals should have been submitted to the local planning authority by the close of the local planning authority’s publicity period.

Section 70(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) provides that a local planning authority must have regard to a post-examination draft neighbourhood development plan, so far as material to the application.

Paragraph: 007 Reference ID: 41-007-20190509

Revision date: 09 05 2019 See previous version

3   Parliamentary Question and Answer

21st August 2019

( Update at 13.00 hours. I have been informed by Grainge Architects that they have chosen to remove my copyright material from their Design, Access and Heritage Statement rather than engage in discussion with me, so it may/should disappear from the EDDC Planning website soon. So don’t panic if you find it isn’t there, try again later. )

I have heard from someone who is finding it difficult to view the documents on EDDC’s Planning site, and I am not surprised. I find that many parts of it don’t work as advertised and other bits seem to have unnecessary near duplicate pages which cause confusion.

I have not given direct links as doing so usually results in a page informing you that your session has timed out and telling you to return to the home page! However, it might be that these links will work, or at least that they will work if you have got as far as looking at the planning application main page but can’t get at the documents.

Proposed Ground Floor plans
Proposed Upper Floor plans
Proposed Elevations
Perspective drawing
Location Plan
Planning application
Design, Access and Heritage Statement

You will notice that on the perspective drawing the building looks mid grey not the charcoal grey specified in the planning application documents and has blue storm shutters by the doors and windows picking up the blue from the Sailing Club. In the planning application document these are specified as grey ( unless they have just been left unspecified, it is not absolutely clear). So the perspective drawing probably shows a more colourful and visually broken up version of what is actually planned. The shutters are shown as grey on the Proposed Elevations

In the Design, Access and Heritage statement they say ‘ The dark timber boards will give the building the aesthetic of a working fisherman’s shed’. In my experience such sheds usually end up faded and perhaps a silvery grey, or driftwood colour.

20th August 2019

The planning application from Grainge Architects for Rockfish has been put on the EDDC website. (16th Aug)
Ref 19/1775/FUL

It does not seem to me that all the necessary information is available so more may turn up in time, however we only have until Sunday 15th September 2019 to make comments.

I am very pleased that they seem to intend to keep the interior intact. This interior layout, and its features, is of national historic interest. There is not enough detail available to tell whether they intend to retain the original glass features.

The outside is a bit more of a problem. Their concept is to clad the walls with dark charcoal grey, to match the balcony to that of the Sailing Club, and to powder-coat in dark grey all windows, doors, storm shutters  and balcony details. As there is no other dark grey building on the Esplanade, or indeed in the town, I feel that this does not fit in with the design principles expressed in the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan which goes to referendum on 19th Sept. As the Neighbourhood Plan is ’emerging’ there is a duty for EDDC Planners to take it in to account as a ‘material consideration’ when making planning decisions for Sidmouth.

I have worked through the Neighbourhood Planning document and extracted the relevant comments, you can find the document here.

In their Design, Access and Heritage Statement Grainge Architects have used elements from my research website without acknowledgement or permission, this has allowed me to open a dialogue with them which may result in me being able to put to them things which have been expressed in various responses to surveys. Of course it may be that they feel they have a solution which is acceptable to the town and are not willing to talk or listen.

I feel that I should make it clear that their solution of cladding the building is, in my opinion, the best way to solve the problems of insulation and retrofit to meet energy targets. It will also protect the walls so that if someone wishes to expose them later they are still in a state where that would be possible. However, cladding the walls does not mean that they have to lose the detailing of the arches on the eastern side ( although it is the cheapest option), and it certainly does not demand a particular colour.

Similarly, it is sensible to have storm shutters to protect openings but there is no need for them to look like a secure warehouse on an industrial estate.

With a few adaptations the proposed design could look much more in keeping with the town. There is no pressing need for a RockFish building to look a particular way as there isn’t a brand type to their restaurants. As you can see from the links below.


Bearing in mind the fact that Port Royal is the entrance to the town from the SW Coastal Path, and that we didn’t have a ‘buffer zone’ status imposed on us when the World Heritage Site was created because they stated they would rely on the protections already in place in the town, I feel that a more visually appealing building would be preferable.

April 2019

EDDC have finally confirmed that the bidder they have chosen is Rockfish

16th Feb 2019

The news has been released that there are 3 bidders for the Drill Hall. None of these is a Community Bid as I have verified elsewhere.

EDDC has put out a Press Release

And it has been reported in the Sidmouth Herald.

EDDC have also announced through the Sidmouth Herald £300,000 for tourism in Sidmouth, from money made from the Sanditon development. Most of the money from Sanditon has been spent elsewhere in East Devon but we are permitted this much. Perhaps it could have been spent on the Drill Hall? A functioning building in place of a neglected one would be good for tourism.

4th Feb 2019

Marketing has now finished and the bids are in.

7th November 2018

The Drill Hall sale has been opened to commercial bidders. JLL has issued the sales particulars. Download sales details pdf.

The Sidmouth Sunrise Community Bid, being put together by Gillian Mitchell and her other directors, can be contacted through their FaceBook page.

1st September 2018

Drill Hall Rescue has decided to put all its resources behind the Sidmouth Sunrise efforts to create a Community Bid. read more ….

Things are looking more positive. We are getting good communication through John Kinsey of JLL and more and more people are coming forward with offers of practical help.

10th August 2018

After questions about previous surveys being asked for weeks JLL has passed on a survey (supplied to them by EDDC ) which took place in 2011. EDDC have previously denied that any previous survey took place.
You can hear a denial from the EDDC Council meeting on the 25th July recording at 14 mins 30 sec where Cllr Rixson’s question about surveys unfortunately hasn’t recorded, but the answer has. It is referrred to in general terms in the written Minutes at 24 c
You can read a denial given in a response to a Freedom of Information request here at ‘what do they‘. Please note that not only did EDDC initially say that there were no surveys done but that they have now over-run the time by which they were legally required to provide an accurate answer to an FOI.

This is typical of the problems we have encountered while trying to work with EDDC, they provide information only grudgingly and more often than not it is misleading and incomplete.

3rd August 2018

The formal notice marking the beginning of the sales period for the Drill Hall has now appeared in the Sidmouth Herald. The closing dates for bids will be 4th Feb 2019.

EDDC and JLL have had to put back the starting date as they were not able to supply Community Bid groups with the access to the hall and the sales details which were promised.

As can be seen by their scruffy and unprofessional display on the Drill Hall door they still do not seem to have got their act together.
This display has not been put up by a community group, these groups can do a much better job; they have to if they want people to take them seriously!

27th July 2018

Yesterday I had an accompanied viewing of the Drill Hall, along with some others. The earlier interior photographs for 2013 and 2017 have now been joined by some photographs of details.

I have received the report from last week’s survey which I have put on a membership page. I have done this so I can keep a record of those who view it. For the first 3 months of the sales period EDDC have instructed JLL to restrict the information available to commercial parties; and so I feel an obligation to at least try to know if anyone with a commercial interest accesses the report.

If you register for membership and receive access please don’t share that access but instead encourage people to sign up personally. I can use the sign-up list as evidence of people’s interest in the Drill Hall being retained.

20th July 2018

My Structural Engineer will be doing the survey of the Drill Hall today and will try to get the report to me by the end of next week.

14th July 2018

John Kinsey wrote to me at 12.48 yesterday lunch time but I didn’t find it until last night.

He has offered me a viewing at 9.30 am on Thursday 26th July and I have accepted.

13th July 2018

I am very grateful to John Kinsey from JLL for his prompt response to my email, he replied the same day.

He says I was mistaken in thinking that he had told me he had not been to the Drill Hall.

He has confirmed that his instructions from the local authority are to make sure all parties are given the same opportunity to put forward their interest. ( I presume this means giving the Community time to get some organisation together which commercial businesses already have in place.)
Also that ‘As discussed and confirmed on the phone my instruction (sic) are to make sure that all community interest have the opportunity for a six month period to make a full assessment of their bid, I also stated that if safe access was delayed the date for offers would be reassessed.’

Further he responded to each point I specifically asked

  1. Not correct that he hasn’t visited the Drill Hall
  2. He is in the process of confirming access to the basement
  3. EDDC is in the process of arranging removal of vegetation and unblocking access
  4. The date of issuing sales particulars is to be confirmed
  5. That my Structural Engineer will be contacted at the earliest possible stage
  6. A formal date for the bidding process to end will be issued in the sales brief
  7. The terms for the lease will be issued in the sales brief.

So it would appear that despite the press release from EDDC (below ) the sales process has not actually begun yet.

JLL an Ethical Company

On the 12th July I wrote to John Kinsey, Hotels and Hospitality Director for JLL who is handling the sale on behalf of EDDC because the sale doesn’t actually seem to have got underway yet.

Letter to John Kinsey and Cllrs 12th July 2018

On the 27th June 2018 EDDC put out a press realease announcing the start of the  6 month marketing period for non-commercial bids for the Drill Hall.

Strangely they seem to think that from the 27th of June to the 11th January is 6 months! See below.

27 June 2018

Proposals sought for redeveloping Sidmouth’s former Drill Hall site

Non-commercial organisations given six months to come forward with a bid while marketing to commercial property sector will be three months

In early 2017, a scoping study around Sidmouth’s Port Royal area was commissioned by Sidmouth Town and East Devon District Councils and included 18 months of consultation, communication and engagement with the local community to find out what they would like to see there.

As a result of hearing what local people wanted and also acknowledging the constraints of the site including increased risk of flooding, a lack of financial viability in relation to large scale mixed use development and existing covenants, it was agreed that the original proposals should be ruled out.

At the same time, the general consensus during last Summer’s consultation process in the town was that improvement needs to happen and East Devon District Council, as owner of the redundant Drill Hall site at Port Royal, would carry out a marketing exercise seeking appropriate uses that would add attraction to the area such as a high quality restaurant / bar development or similar.

Proposals are now being sought for the Drill Hall as the district council has selected a property marketing advisor for the site.

Earlier this year the council agreed to allow a six-month marketing process for non-commercial and commercial bids to come forward for the Drill Hall.

Exeter-based JLL, who are experienced in commercial property, are the new appointees and on their advice the council will be marketing the building to non-commercial organisations immediately giving them a longer period to come up with their proposals, and the commercial property sector for a shorter period of time from the autumn.

Local community groups who may be interested in the site can approach JLL for guidance about the information required from them, if they want to put in a bid in six months’ time. The deadline for submitting non-commercial and commercial bids is January 11, 2019.
East Devon is working closely with the town council on the marketing of the site.

Cllr Jeff Turner of Sidmouth Town Council said: “I’m pleased to see that the six month period has now started for the local community in Sidmouth to come forward with any ideas they may have. This commences the next stage of the process in finding a way forward for this area of the seafront which is of significant interest to a great many people in Sidmouth.”

Cllr Philip Skinner, Deputy Leader of East Devon District Council and its economy portfolio holder said: “I’m delighted that we are now able to offer this opportunity for the local community in Sidmouth to come forward during the next six months with their ideas for the site. Our property advisor will be available to offer guidance to interested parties and I look forward to seeing a range of proposals when the marketing period concludes in January next year.”

On the 13th Feb 2018 EDDC  put out a press release setting out what will happen at Port Royal.
Way forward for Sidmouth’s Port Royal
Focus on improvements and Drill Hall will be marketed for redevelopment

I was surprised by this as the plans for Port Royal have not yet been approved by the full Council which next meets on the 28th Feb; but I am sure they know what they are doing!

It is still not clear whether the building will be reused, I do wish they would be more precise.

Minutes from the East Devon District Council Cabinet meeting on 7th Feb 2018 (extract)

Cllr Jeff Turner spoke for the Town Council and said that the STC interest was with the Port Royal Club (that is the Sailing Club, Gig Club and Sea Angling Club ). This is not something which has been said before but it explains a lot.
The Consultants had said in their report that the Sailing Club and other clubs who use the building provided facilities for a significant proportion of the population of Sidmouth. (Main report doc, 6.7, ‘The sailing club and the building it occupies clearly provides benefits for a significant proportion of the local community.’ ) I thought that this was overstating the case, how many people constitute a ‘significant proportion’?
Now at EDDC Cabinet Cllr Turner points out that the collective term for all these clubs is The Port Royal Club, as head of the Reference Group why did he not make this clear to the Consultants? If that basic level of communication is missing then how much else got lost?

Or is it that until now only the building was known as the Port Royal Club? ( as shown by the fact the term is only consistently used in planning documents ). I can not find a constitution or a company or a charity with that name or something similar, in Sidmouth.

EDDC written minutes can be checked against the audio record.

Neither the STC or EDDC minutes give much hope that the Drill Hall building is seen as worthy of being retained, so we need to keep up the effort!

Minutes from the Sidmouth Town Council meeting on 5th Feb 2018 (extract)

If the minutes are an accurate record then it appears that Sidmouth Town Councillors are wanting and expecting that the Drill Hall will be marketed as a building site. Their wish that a design for the site be ‘aspirational’ would indicate that they still haven’t grasped that rebuilding on that area would not be attractive for a developer, especially as such redevelopment would require the developer to contribute to the cost of the Beach Management Plan.

The reports from the Consultants make it clear that there would need to be an archeological survey before a new building could be created, and I have written to the Councillors individually, in the past, to make the same point. The Consultants touched on the difficulties of demolishing and recreating within a Conservation Area, and you all know that this point has been made to the Town Council and District Council for many years. And so it goes on …..

I find it very difficult to believe that a majority of the Town Council is still in favour of a rebuild, which is what these minutes suggest.

30th Jan 2018

The East Devon Distric Council’s agenda for 7th Feb 2018 contains an item on Port Royal. In it there is a recommendation that the whole site is not redeveloped but that the Drill Hall is put up for sale.

This agenda item has been extracted from the whole agenda and is available below
Extract from agenda for EDDC Cabinet for 7th Feb 2018

This recommendation may be accepted by Cabinet and then by EDDC as a whole, or it may not. If it is accepted there is still a lot of uncertainly about the form in which it will be marketed.
Will it be offered freehold or with a lease?
Is there the option for the building to be handed over to Sidmouth Town Council as an asset transfer?
Are they going to accept that demolishing the Drill Hall and building something in its place is never going to be viable, given flood zones and conservation issues, and require that the building is retained?
Are they going to try to pretend that a buyer could acquire the site for redevelopment?

If the latter is part of the plan then we need to challenge it early or we will end up in a situation where we and any developer spend a lot of time in getting the correct information understood, and any reuse of the hall will be further put back.

The recommendation states that they want it marketed before there is further deterioration of the site. Would it be cruel to point out that any deterioration, past or future lies entirely at the door of the owner?