Fresh plans are submitted for retirement flats on the former council office site in Sidmouth

A retirement developer keen to build flats on the site of former council office in Sidmouth has brought fresh plans to the table after a previous proposal was refused.

Plans to knock down the former council offices at the Knowle in Sidmouth for a care and retirement development have been submitted for approval again after being refused in January, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.

But the only change is the removal of a handful of balconies from one side of a block of retirement flats.

Sidmouth

The revised retirement living block west elevation plans – with second floor balconies removed.
Image: EDDC planning documents/Stride Treglown.

Sidmouth

The original retirement living block west elevation plans – with second floor balconies.
Image: EDDC planning documents/Stride Treglown.

East Devon District Council (EDDC)’s former HQ, which was also once a hotel, was severely damaged by fire in a suspected case of arson last March.

Retirement homes specialist McCarthy and Stone wants to demolish it and build a 70-bed care home, 53 assisted living apartments for over-70s and 33 apartments for over-60s, as well as non-age-restricted properties in the form of four semi-detached homes and a terrace of three townhouses.

A former caretaker’s building would have been kept, and another purpose-built structure erected, for bat habitats.

Sidmouth

A computer generated image from the original planning application shows the proposed over-60s apartments.
Image courtesy EDDC planning documents/McCarthy and Stone.

EDDC’s planning committee refused the application two months ago on grounds the design of the two southerly blocks would not have reflected “local distinctiveness”, and the block of flats for over-60s with its “large windows and balconies” would have been too overbearing on properties in Knowle Drive to the west.

The fresh plans ask permission for the same as before with only a minor change: removing the second-floor balconies on the western side of the over-60s block.

This will “provide a lessening of impact… upon the residential and visual amenities of the occupiers of neighbouring [properties]in Knowle Drive”, according to planning documents.

They also hope the revised plans will allow “more detailed discussions” with EDDC to address the reasons for refusal, which could lead to further changes and “potentially avoid the need to take the scheme to an appeal”, planning documents say.

So far, members of the public seem largely unimpressed by the new proposals, with 23 objections and two comments in support.

David and Naomi Hogg, objecting, describe the removal of the balconies as a “minimal attempt to address the issue of overlooking and overbearing”.

They said: “It fails to recognise the significant overbearing effect caused simply by the fact that this three-storey block would be built on substantially higher ground than that of the neighbouring properties on Knowle Drive.”

But Norma Pearce writes in support: “As an elderly resident of Sidmouth and an intended future occupant of this comprehensive development… The current amended proposal re: removal of balconies is an appropriate price to pay, to preserve the privacy of nearby residents.”

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