Paucity of ideas?

SIR - Mr Cotton is to be congratulated on his letter in last week’s Herald. He quite clearly highlights the paucity of ideas and talent, lack of forward planning and concern for Sidmouth as displayed by the EDDC professionals and our elected councillors.

The EDDC Local Development Plan (LDP), which includes Sidmouth, currently out for public consultation, is a mish-mash of ill considered ideas and proposals, unsupported by facts. The need for an additional 150 houses and for over 12 acres of new employment land when the existing Alexandria estate is underutilised, are both unsupported by any data. The proposals are pure guess work. Both, if accepted, will probably mean building in ANOB land and overload our already strained infrastructure. Roads, the sewage treatment works, schools, and medical facilities will come under further detrimental pressure. And in this context, we should understand that the construction of additional houses in Sidmouth will always be considered by EDDC regardless of the LDP; I refer to the 600 dwellings already being “permitted” which do not feature in any Plan.

And, never mentioned by EDDC except when pressured by others, are other proposals in which the public has had no say.

Firstly: the demolition of the Drill Hall. Sidmouth must be the only sea front town in the UK where a prime piece of sea front real estate is likely to become a “temporary car park” because of the lack of ANY development plan for the Port Royal area (and the LDP barely acknowledges this). Despite attempts by the SVA, Chamber of Commerce, Vision Group and others to encourage and help EDDC to prepare a comprehensive development plan for the Port Royal end of the Esplanade, the council has steadfastly remained in denial about the need for this. As a result the eastern end of town remains a complete eyesore. Any development will be considerably in the future, leaving the site as a car park for many years.. The available Section 106 money available from the developer of the Fortfield Hotel site (where again EDDC complacency and lack of planning has permitted the erection of another block of apartments) should be used to prepare a comprehensive plan for restrained development of this scenic area. EDDC must not think that they can allow a developer to plan and impose a large apartment block here as a price for “improving the area”. What a shambles we now have.

Secondly: “Park and Change”. We should all be aware that Persimmon already own significant areas of land on the west side of Sidmouth in expectation of future development. As Mr Cotton states, it is highly likely that they will seek planning permission for further housing, as a quid pro quo for donating a piece of land able to accommodate the Park and Change. Has the need for such a facility been demonstrated? How will this affect the LDP allocation of houses? Do we want more large estates in the town?

Thirdly: the possible relocation of EDDC to Honiton. If the Herald had not alerted us we would be unaware of the work going on to explore such a move. How can it be justified in such difficult economic times? (. . and let us assume that EDDC will somehow justify it!). The justification will depend on a developer acquiring the Knowle site at a price which will pay for all the additional costs of the move to Honiton over a number of years. There will be obtuse economic arguments in favour of the move. A prime piece of public land will become private housing. Commerce will be lost to the town. The effects will be dire. Are we to be presented by a fait accompli?

It would be easy for the residents of Sidmouth to let all of this happen and “roll over and have their tummies tickled”, but EDDC has an appalling record of development planning (or the lack of it) and real consultation. Most development policy decisions are the result of discussion between interested parties behind closed doors.

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With the above in mind, all Sidmouth residents need to lodge their comments on the current LDP proposals by the end of January, be continually aware of what is happening, lobby their councillors and take public issue if they disagree with what seems to be happening in the town.

R J Thurlow

12 Regency Gate, Sidmouth