All you need to know about the Sidford Business Park inquiry

A site layout showing the fixed layout of buildings for the proposed development at the site at Two

A site layout showing the fixed layout of buildings for the proposed development at the site at Two Bridges Road in Sidford. - Credit: Archant

An inquiry will open to determine the fate of a controversial multi-million pound business park planning application.

Arguments for and against Sidford Business Park development will be heard across a three-day inquiry at East Devon District Council's headquarters at Blackdown House in Honiton.

The Planning Inspector has scheduled the inquiry to run for three days from Tuesday, July 16, until July 18, commencing at 10am.

The decision will be announced later this year.

Before the inquiry begins, here is all you need to know about the plan's history so far.

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What is the application?

The controversial application has made numerous headlines over the years about the case for a business park in between the villages of Sidford and Sidbury.

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The latest application was submitted last year as an outline proposal applying for a change of use of land from agricultural to employment land. The site is east of Two Bridges in Sidford.

The plans sought approval for 8,445 sqm of new floorspace, new highway access, cycle and foot paths, improvements to flood attenuation, building layout and road layout, new hedgerow planting and associated infrastructure.

The development aimed to create 250 full-time jobs.

Why was it refused?

East Devon District Council refused the application on the grounds it would be a 'detriment to highway safety' due to the increase of HGV traffic it would bring to inadequate road.

To date, the current application has received 371 comments with 259 objections and 110 supporting statements.

Have there been any previous applications for that site?

Yes, the council refused a previous application for the site back in 2016 for a 9.3acre or 22,800sqm site.

EDDC refused the application after it had failed to demonstrate robust mitigation and documents about the effect of the development on the landscape.

Who are the applicants?

The applicants are businessmen Tim and Mike Ford.

The pair revealed in 2012 their vision to create a business park for the town.

Following the announcement in May 2018, Tim Ford told the Herald in an exclusive interview the town needed new employment space as areas such as the Alexandria Estate were full.

At the time he said: "It was a big decision to make [to reduce the size of the application]. This is an investment for 20-30 years - that's the way I look at. Now it's a case we have got to have employment in Sidmouth. We have got businesses in Sidmouth that would like to expand.

"I was very naïve eight years ago - I thought this is employment, this is good. I think the end result is something that is really smart and we will be proud of."

Read his interview hereWhy is the decision being challenged?

An appeal was lodged in February this year.

EDDC confirmed that the applicants indicated that they would like the appeal to be considered by public inquiry.

Ahead of the inquiry, a statement prepared by Ashfords LLP on behalf of the applicants claims the increase in traffic on the road proposed by the development would be insignificant.

It says the site falls within EDDC's current Local Plan for employment uses, while the Local Plan strategy allows for flexibility with regards to a range of uses.

Who is against it?

The application has faced much opposition from different corners of the community with concerns about traffic, flooding and pollution.

EDDC, Devon County Council and local councillors have voiced their concern.

Campaign group 'Say NO to Sidford Business Park' has held protests and carried out a petition that received more than 1,400 signatures from the Sidford and Sidbury area.

The group has also held fundraisers to mount a challenge.

Previously an attempt was made in 2018 to challenge the sites inclusion in the Local Plan.

Read the full arguments for an against hereOther things you might not know

The site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a point which many objectors have raised.

The site is allocated as employment land and its development for such use is supported in principle by the East Devon Local Plan.

Back in 2015, East Devon councillors asked for the site to be removed from the Plan, but the decision to retain it was upheld by the Planning Inspector.

Following the decision in 2016, the Inspector said: "It has been shown that there is neither a suitable site within Sidmouth nor a better one outside the town. I consider that any environmental impacts can be satisfactorily mitigated.....I consider the proposed allocation to be sound and I do not recommend its deletion."

You can tune in tomorrow into our live blog from 10am.

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