What are the constraints?

The first constraint is very obvious, money.

The second is that it is in a Conservation Area. The third is that it is in what would normally the buffer zone of a World Heritage Site. In this particular WHS it is considered that a formal buffer zone is unnecessary because of Area of Natural Beauty status and Conservation Areas ( see Jurassic Coast Management doc)  Constraint 1 is affected by constraints 2 and 3 because they call for high specification design.

Leaving those areas aside for the moment we move on to the need for the land-owners to agreed on the way forward. This is what the joint EDDC and STC Scoping exercise will mainly be focussing on; who owns what? You might think this would be fairly straight-forward but it is not. The documents the Land Registry hold only show the ownership of some parts. Having obtained documents for everything in that area the unregistered bits are clear.
The documents can be seen on the Drill Hall Research site.

Then there is the need for compliance with the Local Plan for East Devon.

Also the need for getting the public , both residents and visitors, behind the plan so it doesn’t face opposition as so many of EDDCs recent plans have.

These can be considered as constraints 4 – 7

Constraints 2 and 3

These are Planning matters and are covered by law. The National Planning Policy Framework contains a section on Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment. This is a very clear and easy to read piece of legislation.

The particular bits relevant to the Drill Hall and any Port Royal redevelopments are
126. Local planning authorities should set out in their Local Plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay or other threats. In doing so, they should recognise that heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance. In developing this strategy, local planning authorities should take into account:

  • the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation
  • the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring
  • the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness; and
  • opportunities to draw on the contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place

Part of Paragraph 128 reads ‘Where a site on which development is proposed includes or has the potential to include heritage assets with archaeological interest, local planning authorities should require developers to submit an appropriate desk-based assessment and, where necessary, a field evaluation.’ This is important as any archeological evidence which hasn’t already been lost is likely to be around the Drill Hall where digging for footings has been minimal. Old photographs give evidence of how footings were created for the Hall and a similar technique may be assumed to have been used for East Cliffe House. After the collapse of the house it looks as though the Sailing Club could have been built on the rubble, but I am sure others will know for certain.

130. Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision

Although EDDC has not yet got a Heritage Asset List for Sidmouth ( despite it being their legal duty to have one) there is little doubt that the Drill Hall meets the criteria for being listed as one. It has links with important local people, it was built by a prominent local architect, it played a large part in the historical activities of the town and it is part of the town Conservation Area.

If we accept that the Drill Hall is a heritage asset then the current dilapidated stage is irrelevant in planning terms. The fact that it has been neglected by both the Territorial Army and then by EDDC itself only means that it will cost more to ‘put right’ if it has to be retained.

131. In determining planning applications, local planning authorities should take account of:

  • the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation
  • the positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets can make to sustainable communities including their economic vitality
  • the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness

The first sentence of  132 reads
 When considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight should be given to the asset’s conservation.
and the 3rd sentence
As heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification.

Even if the EDDC argues that the Drill Hall is not a heritage asset then this applies
135. The effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset should be taken into account in determining the application. In weighing applications that affect directly or indirectly non designated heritage assets, a balanced judgement will be required having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset.
The Historic England statement that the Drill Hall is an asset to the conservation area requires that the Hall is given quite a lot of weigh when considering the Port Royal redevelopment.