100 object in Sidmouth footpath wrangle

AN inquiry into a Sidmouth footpath fall-out this week heard more than 100 people objected to the diversion of a Sidmouth public right of way.

The Planning Inspectorate is now considering whether to confirm or deny a county council ruling that is vital to plans for 12 new town-centre homes.

More than 30 people attended a hearing, over proposals to divert the pedestrian route linking Holmdale to Mill Street, at Sidmouth Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday.

Residents expressed concern the diverted footpath would run outside bedroom and kitchen windows.

“You’re not solving the problem, you’re giving it to someone else,” said one objector.

Developer Blue Cedar Homes has planning permission to build a gated retirement community at Parsons Yard - and bosses had indicated the fate of the project rested on the diversion of the route.

The land owner had asked that footpath 169, which runs through the yard and forecourt, be diverted along the southern boundary of the site.

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Devon County Council (DCC) gave the diversion the go-ahead and objections to that order prompted Tuesday’s inquiry.

Inspector Helen Slade will, in due course, reach a decision on whether the order should be confirmed. This could take up to six weeks.

She told the inquiry there had been 101 statutory objections and five expressions of support for the proposed diversion.

Richard Spurway, a DCC public rights of way warden, told the hearing: “The diversion is required for the development to proceed.”

He added the new footpath would be “an improved amenity for the public”.

A representative for Counters Court residents said the new route would “run directly outside bedroom and kitchen windows”.

Under questioning, Mr Spurway said the human rights of householders, who live near the proposed new path, hadn’t been considered when the order was made.

Asked if the diversion ‘would be for private, not public gain’, Mr Spurway said: “You could draw that conclusion.”

“You’re moving the problem from one area and sticking it under someone else’s nose,” said objector Julian King.

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