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Redevelopment plans for The Knowle 'under review' by new owners

By Philippa Davies

31st Mar 2021 | Local News

The developers behind the controversial scheme to redevelop East Devon District Council's former HQ in Sidmouth into an assisting living community are now 'considering their options' for the site.

The company Lifestory gained planning permission to convert The Knowle into a 113-apartment residential development in January 2018, after winning an appeal against the initial refusal.

They completed their purchase of the site in January 2020 but have not carried out much work on the site in the last 14 months.

Marc Evans, regional managing director for Lifestory, said: "We've been carrying out some initial works on site lately and whilst the permission has been implemented, we've also been reviewing the consented development.

"For a number of reasons, including our experience elsewhere, we're changing our focus in terms of the types of later living schemes we're likely to be developing in future.

"As a result, we're now considering options for the site's redevelopment, which we've spoken to the council about.

"We'll continue to talk to the council over the coming weeks and we're keen to make sure that the site's redevelopment is successfully achieved."

The district council decided in 2015 to relocate from The Knowle to new offices in Honiton and Exmouth, and to finance the move by selling The Knowle to Pegasus Life Ltd for £7.5million.

The council moved out of The Knowle in February 2019, with two thirds of the staff moving to the new Heathpark HQ in Honiton, and one third to Exmouth town hall.

The Heathpark HQ cost the council £8.7m, and an additional £1.5m was spent on upgrading Exmouth town hall.

In October 2019 Pegasus Life merged with two other developers to create Lifestory, which was planning to convert The Knowle into a residential community for older people, comprising extra care units, staff accommodation and communal facilities including a kitchen, restaurant, bar, café, a well-being suite, a gym, treatment rooms and pool.

Construction phasing plans – a condition of the initial planning permission – were submitted and approved in November 2020, but after starting initial works to implement the planning permission, Lifestory are now considering the options for the site's redevelopment.

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