Devon: Selling off council buildings in Exmouth, Axminster and Exeter could help raise £7million for the county

Selling off council-owned properties in Exmouth, Axminster, Exeter, and other areas of Devon, are hoped to earn the county around £7million, it has been revealed.

Property disposals have earned Devon just over £7 million and the hopes are the same amount could be secured this year, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

The biggest ticket item sold by Devon County Council in the year to March 31 was land at Aldens Farm in Alphington, for £4 million, where a large housing application of more than 180 homes has been approved.

Devon

Aldens Farm planning documents, for Alphington, Exeter.

Exeter’s Compass House earned the council £900,000, the second biggest sale amount from the 12 sites or buildings it sold.

Councillors at the authority’s cabinet meeting heard this week (Wednesday, May 8) that the council expected to earn a similar amount – around £7 million- in the current financial year.

The authority has slated four sites for possible sale or repurposing, as well as three freeholds on Sowton Industrial Estate in Exeter.

It believes 2-4 Meeting Street in Exmouth, East Devon, which is being vacated by public health nursing and a local ceramics group, both of whom are relocating to another Devon County Council-owned building, the Kennaway Centre, could be marketed for residential or commercial use – pending a change of use application – over the summer.

An East Devon youth centre is also relocating to the Kennaway Centre from The Hive in Exmouth, meaning the latter is surplus to requirements too.

Lea Combe, in Axminster, in East Devon, has also been identified as suitable for residential development of around four to six houses. It was previously being safeguarded for a highways development scheme, but that is no longer required.

The council also wants to repurpose Rosalind House in Tiverton into so-called ‘staying close’ provision; essentially accommodation within the county that could house looked-after children.

However, it noted that the property’s garden “which is considerably bigger than required for staying close” could be marketed as a potential residential site for one or two houses.

And three freeholds in Sowton, which are jointly owned with Exeter City Council, could also be sold if the values achieved for them would be greater than prospective proceeds from ground rent.

Councillor Carol Whitton (Labour, St David’s & Haven Banks) asked what the timescale was for a decision on whether to sell the Matford Offices which are on the County Hall site in Exeter.

These had previously been earmarked for disposal, but are subject to a public consultation given strong opposition in the community to turn them into housing.

At the time their potential disposal was discussed in October, alongside other properties and land totalling an estimated value of £10 million, Julian Brazil (LIberal Democrat, Kingsbridge) called the move a “fire sale”.

Devon county officers suggested potential options for Matford could be put before Councillors in the autumn.

Outgoing leader John Hart (Conservative, Wembury and Bickleigh) said that in the past 12 years, the authority had “raised a considerable amount of money and reduced our property holdings, money which has been put into the capital expenditure pot, by and large”.

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