Bid to move 12-acre employment site

PUBLISHED: 10:36 23 March 2015 | UPDATED: 10:39 23 March 2015

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A pair of Sid Valley representatives have made a last-ditch effort to see controversial proposals for 12-acres of employment land between Sidford and Sidbury scrapped.

Conservative councillor, Stuart Hughes. Ref shs 9683-10-15AW. Picture: Alex WaltonConservative councillor, Stuart Hughes. Ref shs 9683-10-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

Councillors Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman hope to convince district planning chiefs that an alternative vision of a business park on land by Sidmouth Garden Centre, north of the A3052, is a ‘no brainer’.

The pair, who have expressed their idea in a motion to the council, will also make the case for the area between Sidford and Sidbury to be formally designated as a ‘green wedge’ - which would afford it special protection from development. Cllr Hughes told the Herald that business units on land east of the garden centre would be easier to screen from view and far more suitable than the mooted Sidford site.

He said: “We have always said between Sidford and Sidbury isn’t the place that you would look to put a business park. It is an area that is renowned for traffic, there are concerns over flooding and it would completely destroy the beautiful view.”

Revisions to the long-awaited East Devon Local Plan – a blueprint for development in the region until 2031 – will be considered at a meeting today (Monday).

Conservative councillor, Graham Troman. Ref shs 9704-10-15AW. Picture: Alex WaltonConservative councillor, Graham Troman. Ref shs 9704-10-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

The draft plan says Sidmouth needs 12-acres of employment land, which is currently earmarked for farmland on the edge of Sidford in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The proposed alternative site adjacent to the garden centre also falls in the AONB, but Mr Hughes said the proposal included the caveat that it would only be developed if there is sufficient demand and there was no more space available at the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate.

He said: “The garden centre site is served by buses, and there are 12 acres available if that’s what is needed – it seems to tick all the boxes.”

Cllr Troman added: “We’re not saying we don’t want any employment land, we’re just proposing another site for it. A lot of the town’s people, the chamber of commerce, and the town council are more supportive of this site than the Sidford one. What we don’t want to see is any urban sprawl closing Sidford and Sidbury up. A big concern for me is the Sidford site could become a retail park in the long term, and that would be a real drain on the businesses in the town.”

Ian Barlow, who owns some of the land surrounding the garden centre, said: “I don’t believe that this town needs 12 acres of industrial land. If they are saying we have to earmark that much, this is the place to do it.”

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