Developers were ‘denied democratic decision’

Sidbury chapel. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 3798-16-14TI Sidbury chapel. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 3798-16-14TI

Thursday, April 24, 2014
5:30 PM

Developers claim they lost their right to a democratic decision when their plans to create a safe access to Sidbury Chapel were rejected – despite a councillor calling it in.

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Chartered surveyor Richard Heard’s son wants to add a lay-by and pedestrian path on the narrow road so his music school at the site can grow, writes Stephen Sumner.

But Richard claims East Devon District Council (EDDC) is guilty of ‘maladministration’ after ward member Chris Wale’s request for it to be scrutinised by planning chiefs was ‘bypassed’.

The application was refused on April 4, but Councillor Wale had asked for it to be debated further two days before.

Mr Heard said: “Clearly any such request from an experienced councillor requires the appropriate action, and a request for referral to the planning committee can only mean there are planning issues which should be drawn to the committee’s attention.”

He added: “We have lost our right to a democratic decision.”

He said it was ‘extremely annoying and distressing’ as it would further delay progress to plans several years in the making.

Agencies and individuals have been split on the merits of the application.

Sidmouth Town Council supported the plans, arguing it ‘would enable a safer access to a building which was in need of renovation and development’.

They also asked for other means of safe access to be considered if the plans were refused.

But Devon County Council representative Claire Wright echoed some residents’ concerns that there would be a safety issue accessing the road which could also cause congestion.

Officers refused the application because the chapel and boundary wall are grade II listed and in a conservation area.

An EDDC spokesman said the decision was made by officers together with the elected chairman of the authority’s development management committee (DMC).

He added that applications are referred to DMC if ward members highlight a material planning consideration, but Cllr Wale had not supported his request and was told why it was not referred.

The spokesman said: “It is worth noting that the application relates to a similar form of development to two previous applications, both of which were refused at committee and one of which was dismissed on appeal.”

Sidbury Chapel was built in 1820 but closed in 2005 as a result of falling congregation numbers.

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