Costly enigma

SIR - Open letter to East Devon District Council planning office in response to Knowle housing development plans.

We are writing to you in response to your letter and notification of your planning application 12/1847/MOUT.

We object strongly to your plans for our park/public recreational land. The development of 50 houses and gardens and a 60-bed care home on the choicest area of parkland in Knowle Park will ruin the park, destroy over 100 trees and, by removing a large public car park, will exacerbate our already considerable car parking problems in Sidmouth.

Furthermore the continual comings and goings of the vehicles of over 150 new residents and their visitors will cause havoc with the traffic on Knowle Drive, which in my view is already hazardous due to its narrow, winding and single track nature.

Surprisingly, no strong and persuasive reason has been given to account for the decision to relocate EDDC offices 12 miles away in Honiton. Members of the EDDC team have suggested that Honiton is more central and more accessible to a greater number of people. Even if true, and Robin Fuller’s scholarly analysis of this claim shows it to be untrue (Sidmouth Herald, August 12), it is certainly not sufficient reason to destroy our public park, demolish a fine, old former hotel, and also dismantle the EDDC offices which were purpose built in the ‘70s.

Then there is always the importance of money. Money to be made and money to be spent. In this time of recession you are planning an unnecessary move at no doubt considerable cost to the rate payer (we do not know how much exactly because you have never seen fit to make the estimates available to the public). Nor has there been a public inquiry as to the costs of alternative scenarios.

I can already hear the plaintive cries in 2014 that the proposed cost of �9million is insufficient due to rising inflation, unexpected charges and general bad management and that at least double the original estimate will be required to complete the job.

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In addition to all of the above objections and in contravention to the spirit and letter of the National Planning Policy Framework (in particular paragraph 74 which provides that existing open spaces will not be built on), if this scheme is implemented it will have a most deleterious effect in Sidmouth as a Georgian seaside town particularly special due to its green and open spaces. The scheme will diminish the character of our Sidmouth and having created this precedent where you are both judge and jury of the application, if approved what is there to stand in the way of houses on the Ham, care homes in Connaught Gardens and bungalows on the Byes.

To sum up, our objections are as follows:

1. Loss of public recreation land;

2. Loss of public car parking facility;

3. Increased traffic on unsuitable roads;

4. Huge costs to move EDDC offices 12 miles (unnecessarily) in a time of recession;

5. No published costs of disputed move which are both tendered and accepted by the same authority;

6. Destruction of the arboretum and possibly badger sets;

7. Detrimental effect on Sidmouth as a Georgian town with important public green spaces;

8. No published cost for the renovation of the existing headquarters which is clearly a less invasive and less costly alternative.

Helen and Ian Crackston

Knowle Drive, Sidmouth