Rockfish bids to buy public toilets as part of plans for Sidmouth seafront restaurant

Restaurant group Rockfish has offered £70,000 to buy public toilets on Sidmouth seafront as part of its plans for the town’s derelict Drill Hall.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs will consider the bid at a meeting on Wednesday, March 1 – with officers recommending it is accepted.

The seafood eatery netted the go-ahead for a £1million bid to transform the Drill Hall in February 2020 but work is yet to start.

A report to EDDC’s Cabinet has revealed the business now wants to purchase a 125-year lease on the loos next-door to the plot on The Esplanade.

It says the move will ‘delay’ the restaurant project, but will ‘result in a much-enhanced’ eatery.

Councillors have been told: “The acquisition by Rockfish would give the opportunity for the toilet block to be incorporated into the refurbishment works at the Drill Hall, enhancing the appearance and offer of the restaurant facility.”

An artist's impression of the Rockfish restaurant on the seafront Drill Hall site in Sidmouth.

An artist’s impression of the Rockfish restaurant on the seafront Drill Hall site in Sidmouth. Image: Rockfish/Grainge Architects

Public toilets and the Drill Hall on Sidmouth seafront. Image: Google Maps

Public toilets and the Drill Hall on Sidmouth seafront. Image: Google Maps

The toilets were earmarked for potential sale or other uses when EDDC carried out a review of its public conveniences in 2021.

The report to Cabinet adds: “Given the location of these toilets, adjacent to the Drill Hall, it was considered appropriate to discuss their disposal to Rockfish who have recently acquired the Drill Hall site, before considering taking the site to the market.

“Rockfish are able to be considered as a special purchaser and the council is able to negotiate with them directly rather than take the site to the market.

“With this in mind, the council has obtained a market valuation of the site for a long leasehold interest of 125 years, taking into account the requirement to provide two accessible toilet cubicles within the site. The market value was assessed at £65,000.

“The council has now received an offer from Rockfish of £70,000 for a 125-year lease and there is a recommendation that this offer be accepted and heads of terms be entered into.

“Rockfish will need to review their design works for the site and the planning permission prior to commencing works on site.

“This will result in a delay to their programme, however, the opportunity to include the toilet block in their refurbishment programme will result in a much-enhanced restaurant offer on this site.”

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