Question of jobs

SIR - We welcome the determination of District planning authorities to conserve and enhance the qualities of Sidmouth, as demonstrated in the draft Local Plan’s proposals for the modest development of the town.

We particularly welcome the reduction in new homes to 150 to be provided within the existing built-up area boundary, and the resolve to promote the upgrading of the Alexandria Industrial Estate.

However, we have serious reservations concerning the specific allocation of up to five hectares of additional employment land.

To quote the Chamber of Commerce’s submission to the Local Plan:

“We do not think it is sustainable and we are worried about the impact upon the environment and the strain upon our services and infrastructure.

“Only by valuing our landscape and protecting our environment are we likely to achieve the socio-economic conditions in which communities can thrive.”

There is simply no evidence that Sidmouth requires extra employment capacity on this scale.

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Out-of-keeping sheds, within bland new factory estates on green field land, amounting to an industrial site in excess of 11 football pitches, will not help promote the commercial vitality of the town.

Rather, such clearly excessive and technically unwarranted development will be fundamentally detrimental to Sidmouth.

The town is a thriving location for tourism, which is the primary generator of the local economy.

And as such, the hospitality, retail and service industries do not need vast tracts of new ‘employment land’, but the maintenance of quality provision of these activities.

Commercial development on the perimeter will not only remove trade from town centre businesses, but will be unsightly and, therefore, act as a serious deterrent to visitors coming to enjoy our unspoilt countryside.

Furthermore, such monolithic, large-scale development is not only totally disproportionate to, but clearly contradicts the reduction in housing numbers as outlined in the draft Local Plan.

Indeed, fears have been expressed that should such massive tracts fail to attract ‘employment’ at any time in the future, then a ‘change of use’ in favour of residential (or even out-of-town retail) will be declared, thus rendering the proposed housing numbers meaningless.

We call on the planning authorities to take care of Sidmouth’s unique appeal and to promote truly sustainable development which is consistent with Sidmouth’s status as a tourist destination of quality.

We urge, therefore, the active consideration of existing brown field provision for new infill and mixed development within the Building Line shown on the current Local Plan, and the reconfiguration of the Alexandria Road site to conclusively resolve the issue of access.

Dave Bramley (Chair, Vision Group for Sidmouth)

Robert Crick (Chair, Futures Forum, VGS)

Alan Darrant (Chair, Sid Vale Association)

James Sharp (President, Sidmouth & District Hospitality Association)