Controversial plans to redevelop Knowle have been recommended for approval ahead of a special planning meeting next Friday.

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Officers at the district council said despite the loss of parkland, in contravention of its own emerging Local Plan, the 50 house and care home development is ‘acceptable’.

An extra room with a live audio feed has been made available for the meeting, but the combined capacity is still only a maximum of 200 people, including councillors and officers, for this highly contentious issue.

There have been more than 1,800 objections to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) plans to relocate to Honiton, which has kickstarted grass-roots campaigns in Sidmouth in opposition to the move.

Last November 4,000 people marched on Knowle to protest against the application, which groups like Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) claim would desecrate public parkland.

A report prepared for Friday’s 2pm meeting said a recent survey demonstrated the town has an ‘over supply of parks and recreation land’, and none of the key features which make the space historically important would be lost.

The council is also keen to stress the current application is merely ‘outline planning consent’ does not cover the principle of whether or not EDDC should, could or will relocate.

Councillor Mark Williamson, chairman of the Development Management Committee, said the meeting ‘is not a forum for debate about the wider merits or demerits of moving the council’s business’.

But Ed Harrison from SOS expects hundreds of angry residents to pack into Knowle and make their feelings known, although he is not confident they can make a difference to the decision, calling it a ‘foregone conclusion’.

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