Monday, March 17, 2014
Critics of the loss of employment land at Knowle claim it should be returned to its former glory as a hotel when East Devon District Council (EDDC) relocates.
The site is proposed for housing that many fear will be luxury second homes – but development of the parkland was slammed as ‘industrial-scale vandalism’ at Sidmouth’s second Local Plan hearing on Tuesday.
Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce president Derek Parry said there is no case for redeveloping Knowle, adding: “Residential use for Knowle represents vandalism on an industrial scale.
“Building in this unique site would be Sidmouth’s equivalent of building in London’s royal parks.”
Kelvin Dent, of the Knowle Residents’ Association, said: “I was concerned when you [Inspector Anthony Thickett] referred to Knowle as a brownfield site – it’s important we don’t regard it as vacant.
“EDDC is one of Sidmouth’s biggest single employers, and it has only taken the decision in principle to relocate.”
Shop owner Barry Curwen said: “There’s no justification for the change of use [to housing] at Knowle – it is still eminently viable.
“This council has a bad history of granting plans for residential properties on employment sites when there are other sites readily available.”
Julia Harbour said Knowle is an important site for rare bats and other wildlife, and that the best option is to retain the buildings.
She asked: “This is a tourist area but we have lost two hotels – why does no one consider that it could be a hotel again?”
EDDC planning policy manager Matt Dickens said there was a lack of demand for office space and Knowle was not a feasible alternative for most other employment uses because of the proximity of the neighbours.
Henry Gordon-Lennox, the authority’s principal solicitor, said the parkland at Knowle is going to be handed over to Sidmouth Town Council.