CIVIC leaders have reiterated their view that fields on Sidmouth’s outskirts should not be turned into a business park of up to 12 acres “under any circumstances”.

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Town councillors made the call as they formulated a final response to the district authority’s controversial Local Plan – a blueprint for homes and jobs until 2026.

Their verdict will be considered by a planning inspector who will decide whether the document is sound or not.

A well-attended meeting at Sidbury Village Hall last Wednesday saw councillors agree that all existing employment sites in the town should be retained - and the earmarked land north of Sidford should not be developed.

They pointed to the fact that it is in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is situated on a flood plain and would cause traffic problems with restricted vehicular access.

Members added that evidence and justification for additional employment allocation should be included in the Local Plan.

Councillors recognised the need for some employment land but said initial emphasis should be on “maximising” existing sites within the town.

They suggested that East Devon District Council (EDDC) should be encouraged to compulsory purchase a strip of land adjacent to the Alexandria Industrial Estate to enable a better access to the site to “help achieve its full potential”.

Support was expressed for a ‘vision statement’ for Sidmouth in the plan - which sets out an ambition to accommodate “modest employment” and “limited housing growth” with “the objective of retaining and consolidating the existing qualities and character of the town”.

But councillors queried why this section was “contradicted” elsewhere in the document by an “assumption” to locate a five hectare site near Sidford.

The town council accepted Sidmouth’s housing allocation should be set at 150 dwellings.

Members wanted a piece of land west of Woolbrook Road and south of Greenway Lane – opposite a new development - reinstated as a ‘reserve’ housing site.

They said allocated land at the Manstone Depot and Knowle are principally employment sites and should be of lower priority for housing.

Councillors added that necessary improvements to infrastructure should be carried out before additional housing is approved.

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