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‘Let us build on your green belt’

PUBLISHED: 13:44 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 13:45 20 February 2014

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A DEVELOPER has urged a government inspector to allow hundreds more homes to be built in Sidmouth – and says the valley’s protected green belt should not be off-limits.

A Persimmon Homes representative this week told a public inquiry into the district council’s controversial Local Plan that it should be allowed to ‘extend’ into the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The firm questioned the 150 dwellings currently earmarked for the town - at Knowle, Port Royal and the Manstone Depot - and said ‘affordable’ homes were needed.

It wants to develop a plot off Woolbrook Road, which district bosses have previously deemed big enough for 257 homes. However, the authority did not make the site part of its Local Plan - a blueprint for development until 2026.

Simon Coles, speaking on behalf of Persimmon, told inspector Anthony Thickett that Sidmouth needed a lot more dwellings.

He said: “Sidmouth is the second largest town in East Devon. But it has a very, very low allocation of housing stock. It is difficult to conceive that there will be just 150 units. I stand to be corrected, but I have seen no evidence of a market housing need [full-price homes].”

He said the council’s 2010 list of those who needed a home advised 415 ‘affordable’ properties were required - eight times the amount.

Mr Coles added: “The council has referred to the AONB as a constraint, and access to schooling being a constraint. East Devon is pretty much washed over with it [the AONB].

“The AONB hasn’t been a constraint to West Dorset, which has seen several hundred units and employment land allocated at Barton Farm, near Sherbourne [230 homes].

“And it’s not been a constraint to allow housing developments in the Cotswolds.

“So what we are saying is that the AONB isn’t representing quite the constraint that the council would have us all believe.

“In actual fact, Sidmouth has the potential to expand to meet not only the affordable housing needs, but also the need for local people to buy homes to able to live and work in the area. And they can do so by extending into the AONB.”

He said that contrary to concerns about education, Persimmon’s Woolbrook site was ‘very close’ to three schools.

“We say the allocation for Sidmouth doesn’t meet the needs of the town and that should increase by making a strategic allocation.”

The comments came when housing was being discussed at the 19-day inquiry into the Local Plan on Wednesday. Sidmouth will be singled out for specific attention on Tuesday, February 25, from 9.30am.

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