Time for courage

SIR - As we hurtle towards the further systematic destruction of Sidmouth in the name of progress, it is gratifying that your contributors are increasingly drawing attention to the insidious attempts being proposed to ruin our precious town.

Opinion last week demonstrated that G Cooper (Homes not needed) has a sound understanding of planning blight; including an awareness that new homes will largely be for inward migration and holiday homes. They may allow housing benefit claimants to enjoy houses that many of us working and retired people could not afford, and enable buy-to-let investors to increase their income and portfolios; however, do not believe the myth that this further destruction of our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will significantly benefit local, first-time buyers.

A Darrant rightly voices ‘Growing Alarm’ at EDDC’s emerging proposals for homes and other development. Thank goodness that we have the Association to articulate the very real risks involved.

G Neale (HQ relocation is a bad move!) provides some useful history of the Knowle’s occupation by EDDC and is right to be unconvinced as to why it should move (and in doing so, provide an impetus for destroying this major asset to the town and its entrance).

Incidentally, we should be grateful for its deputy chief executive for drawing our attention to the fact that “There are no Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) there”. Note to the seven district councils responsible for the Sidmouth area: Please respond belatedly to this obvious omission and get EDDC to list the trees NOW, to minimise future destruction of these beautiful grounds. I believe that EDDC is responding with unnecessary enthusiasm to the previous and current Government’s invitation to concrete over vast areas of our country. Largely unchecked immigration and a benefit system that rewards people for having more children than they can afford (or would have if they had to pay for them), has indeed caused a need for more housing, but it doesn’t have to be in Sidmouth.

Some may find it far more interesting and exciting to conform and make enthusiastic plans to treat Sidmouth as if it were any other part of the country. There is an awareness that local politicians come and go, and that their paid senior officials (most of whom doubtless do not live in Sidmouth) may welcome the resultant opportunities for re-grading, re-structures, pay-offs and the ability to quote what they have done to Sidmouth and the proposed Knowle relocation and development as a way of getting promotion in another part of the country. It takes courage and conviction to have the bravery to say: “No, we do not want to become just another clone town. We are in an AONB, on the Jurassic Coast, have a rich heritage of listed, Georgian and Regency buildings, conservation areas and a uniqueness which delights both locals and thousands of visitors (who will stop coming if we become like everywhere else)”.

The seven EDDC councillors who were elected to serve Sidmouth need to clearly and pro-actively demonstrate to people who live in Sidmouth (or who regularly visit the town and who are genuinely concerned at what is happening here) that they can be brave and stand up for the people who elected them; rather than get swept away with a misguided belief that they have no choice or that no one is noticing. That would clearly be wrong.

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A Tilley