Friday, January 18, 2013
A CONTENTIOUS vision for the future of the Sid Valley has been condemned as “unsound” by Natural England.
The conservation authority points to the allocation of an employment site of up to five hectares north of Sidford as the reason it cannot endorse the district council’s Local Plan.
Experts add that there should be no loss of “important” green space at Knowle if homes are built on the site.
They also say the potential loss of land designated for jobs to homes at Manstone Depot is another aspect contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework.
Natural England questions why no environmental strategy is included in the plan for Sidmouth, as it is for other places, given the issue’s “important role to both residents and to the town as an all year round tourist destination”.
The proposed earmarking of around 12 acres for a business park is “not justified”, says the authority in a report.
Its author points to an independent housing and employment study, commissioned by the district council in 2011, that states employment priorities in Sidmouth.
These include replacing existing poor stock, the potential for small industrial/hybrid schemes and a work-hub to encourage entrepreneurs.
“It is also noted that the report concluded there was some capacity at Alexandria Road within the town, which we note is proposed to be allocated,” says the report.
“We therefore agree that some development may be required at Sidmouth which, due to the constraints on the town, may include some development in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
“However, such development should be considered exceptional and in the public interest.”
The report concludes the employment allocation at Sidford is neither exceptional or in the public interest - and the plan is unsound.
Natural England’s views will be considered alongside the Local Plan by a planning inspector.