Natural England adviser Amanda Newsome is correct to warn that visitors will bypass Sidmouth if we are left with a valley full of houses.
Her timely remarks follow a flood of controversial planning proposals which will impact on the town’s future, not least the Government’s declared intention to urbanise the countryside in order to kick-start the economy.
While at the Knowle, the LDF panel has recommended a minimum of 15000 more houses in the Local Plan, on top of which a further 20% is demanded by Whitehall. It is claimed building on green fields is the cheapest way to provide homes, but that these “shameful shoeboxes”, which local people cannot afford, measure only 77% of the recommended size.
The Government’s white paper is calling for the presumption to be in favour of development, in other words, replacing current policy with a speculators’ charter.
Under such circumstances we can be sure our quality resort will be under constant pressure for the next fifteen years. Instead of a wish-list, which EDDC is “unable to deliver”; the local council ought to prepare a robust Town Plan which protects green spaces and surrounding AONB land, with a clearly stated preference to develop brown field sites first.
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Without such ring-fencing in place, vested interest will be allowed to bulldoze its way through the Local Plan without anyone being able to object.
Do we really want to turn a beautiful valley into a sprawling anonymous estate full of shoeboxes; - who, it begs to be asked, would benefit from this?
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