Sid Valley’s bid to give ‘voice to silent majority’ gaining ground

PUBLISHED: 18:15 20 November 2016

The Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan logo

The Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan logo

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Tourism was identified as a key priority for businesses and groups in the parish

Daffodils out for the first time on Peak Hill after the planting of a million bulbs in the Sid valley by the SVA. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 2455-10-14TI To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on myphotos24 Daffodils out for the first time on Peak Hill after the planting of a million bulbs in the Sid valley by the SVA. Photo by Terry Ife. Ref shs 2455-10-14TI To order your copy of this photograph go to www.sidmouthherald.co.uk and click on myphotos24

Driving forces behind a £46,000 blueprint for the future of the Sid Valley have reflected on its progress after nearly a year of work.

Civic leaders first gave the Neighbourhood Plan the green light in December last year. It aims to enable people to influence future developments in the parish for the next 20 years and beyond.

Preserving the town’s unique character and landscape have already been identified as key priorities, while tourism was top of the list for businesses and special interest groups, according to survey results revealed this week.

To date, a residents’ survey has been carried out, followed by one for businesses and special interest groups.

Addressing Sidmouth Town Council, Neighbourhood Plan steering group member Tim Salt presented an update on proceedings and outlined some key findings. He said: “The Business and Special Interest Groups survey was a consultation that ran from September 19 to October 31. We directly contacted more than 400 groups and businesses. With the exception of health and care, which was less important to businesses, there are strong similarities in priorities identified by householders in the first residents’ questionnaire.”

The total number of completed questionnaires received overall was 103 - representing a 24 per cent response rate. Of these, there were 72 businesses - employing a total of more than 700 people - and 31 organisations with more than 1,000 members overall.

Mr Salt said the next step for the steering group is to gather opinions from the town’s youngest generations. A young people’s survey will be launched this month.

Councillor Ian McKenzie-Edwards said: “One of the things that was unfortunate in the first residents’ questionnaire was that the 18-40 age group was not very strongly represented. Considering we see them as the future of Sidmouth, can you confirm how that group will be asked to state their views?”

In response, Mr Salt said: “That group was much underrepresented and we are trying to address it through school students - we hope they will encourage their own family members to get involved. We are also increasing our social media presence and pushing the online survey.”

Vice chairman of the steering group, Cllr Louise Cole, said: “When we put the young people’s survey out, we will have a flyer that will go into book bags, so we are directly targeting that age group. It’s worth noting that in the residents’ survey, tourism was far down the list, but, for businesses, it’s the top priority. We need to find these differences to make sure everyone is represented.”

A second residents’ survey will be sent out in the spring and the Neighbourhood Plan should be finalised by the end of next year.

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