Business park plans for Sidmouth revealed

How Fords' business park could look

How Fords' business park could look - Credit: Archant

Fords of Sidmouth has revealed its multi-million-pound vision of a 9.3-acre business park to serve the town’s employment needs over the next 20 years.

The proposed layout of Fords' business park

The proposed layout of Fords' business park - Credit: Archant

According to the fourth-generation company’s outline planning application, submitted this week, the land between Sidbury and Sidford – in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – is the only option and will deliver up to 300 jobs.

Fords is also planning to develop a Sidmouth Business Centre, a cycleway and footpath between the villages, and it is setting aside a further five acres for flood improvement and attenuation.

The application states: “Fords has identified a multi-million-pound budget for their new expansion plans and delivery of their new premises. This investment, alongside the proposed investment in the enterprise units, will provide Fords with accommodation for their own future business development and also valuable space for other businesses to expand and utilise.

“Over the Local Plan period, the expected capital outlay will be a substantial benefit to the business community of Sidmouth.

“The scheme embodies a forward-thinking approach and substantial time investment is being given to understanding the sustainable options available.”

This year, East Devon District Council (EDDC) adopted its Local Plan, a development blueprint up to 2031.

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Despite an eleventh-hour bid to remove it, the Sid Valley was allocated 12 acres of employment land north of the A3052.

Fords has its sights set on some 14 acres of agricultural land east of the A375, but the proposed ‘net development’ area is 9.3 acres. Its application argues that having no development of an employment site in Sidmouth over the Local Plan period is an ‘unacceptable conclusion’.

The company claims that developments that provide new employment opportunities are ‘well overdue’ in the area, as the disparity between wages and the cost of living is widening, particularly for young people.

According to the plans, the greenfield site is the ‘only available and deliverable’ option close to the urban edge of Sidmouth and there were no ‘realistic alternatives’.

This is despite the ‘adverse and direct, long-term effect of severe significance’ on the landscape character, according to the application. The impact will be mitigated by the planting of 3.7 acres of woodland, 400 metres of hedgerow and a ‘substantial buffer’ of trees around much of the site, say the plans.

The application states that the town centre cannot meet the demand because of the lack of parking and disabled access.

It also says it is unviable to create a new £1million access so the Alexandria Industrial Estate – home to Fords’ current HQ – can reach capacity as an employment site. The estate has been allocated Sidmouth’s remaining 1.2 acres of employment land in the Local Plan.

Fords’ application allocates 9,120 sqm for business use, 6,840 sqm for ‘general industrial’ use and 6,840 sqm for storage and distribution – a total area equivalent to three football pitches.

Any retail use would be ‘purely ancillary’ as showroom spaces. This was a hot topic in the Local Plan inquiry, with councillors eager to ensure the business park did not become an out-of-town shopping centre.

The first phase will see the 5.8-acre southern field developed, and extensive planting. Phase two will see work on another 3.5 acres. Construction of phase two will only begin once 90 per cent of the first phase is occupied – and EDDC said it should not happen until after the five-year review of the Local Plan.

The development blueprint also states: “If the first phase has not been developed by the first plan review, then the employment allocation for Sidmouth should be re-examined.”

Fords is proposing a new surface water drainage system to replace the existing, uncontrolled, natural run-off system.

According to the application, the potential increase in traffic will be met within the capacity of the existing and proposed infrastructure. The business park will be accessed via two T-junctions, one either side of the existing sewage treatment works.

A cycle route and footpath will link into the new estate network, together with an upgraded connection via Laundry Lane into Sidford. Devon County Council had proposed a similar cycle route and footpath, but in February put its plans on hold to allow ‘further dialogue’ with Fords.

EDDC will decide the fate of the outline planning application. Once it has been determined, a detailed application can be submitted for the Fords employment building and a masterplan for other units. It will give the ‘highest regard’ to design, energy efficiency, safety and security - and will look to support a ‘vibrant’ economy for the area, says the application.