Take business park land out of Local Plan say campaigners

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 November 2018

East Devon Alliance chairman Marianne Rixson is standing to represent Sidmouth on Devon County Council

East Devon Alliance chairman Marianne Rixson is standing to represent Sidmouth on Devon County Council

Archant

Campaigners have called for land earmarked for a multi-million pound Sidford business park to be taken out of the Local Plan.

It follows East Devon District Council’s decision to throw out an application to build 8,445sqm of employment floor space on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The proposed development for the Two Bridges site received 255 comments of objection and 111 in support. A campaign group also submitted a petition to the council with 1,400 signatures opposing the plans.

Now campaigners are calling on council bosses to look at removing the area, earmarked for development, out the Local Plan, claiming it should have never been there in their first place.

The Herald understands the application could once again go to appeal following a response from East Devon District Council saying it would not be appropriate to respond to the campaigners’ comments.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “As we understand that this matter is now going to appeal, it would not be appropriate to make any comments about the status of the Local Plan.

“The campaigners can make their points direct to the Planning Inspector in support of the council’s decision to refuse.”

Councillor Marianne Rixson has spoken out on the reasons why the town should join her rallying call to pressure the authority to look at taking the site out of the Local Plan at the earliest opportunity.

The Local Plan

“When a Government inspector was examining the suitability of the site in 2014, county Highways failed to point out that the roads would not be able to cope with the traffic an industrial estate would bring. Highways only admitted their error in September 2016.

“After the draft Local Plan had been sent to the Inspector for final approval in 2015, district councillors realised they’d made a mistake and voted almost unanimously to try to remove it from the plan but no effort was made to explain to the Inspector the reasons why the site was unsuitable - consequently he had no option but to rule that the site should remain, subject to planning.”

Flooding issues:

“It is on a floodplain and flooding will inevitably get worse with climate change.

“The Two Bridges site is in zones 3A and two flood risk zones - yet another reason why this site is unsuitable.”

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB):

“England has 34 AONB all of which are supposed to have the highest rate of protection in law and Government policy.

“We should only build on AONB if there is an overwhelming need for a development. The owners’ plans for a business park were market driven so there isn’t any hard proof. Surely we need to know for sure that there is an overwhelming need for employment space in the Sid Valley before we destroy this AONB?

“I would advocate for the district and town councils to work together to look seriously at how we can attract good quality, well paid jobs into the valley and how we can most effectively locate them without encroaching into the AONB and where there is good transport infrastructure.

“We need to attract good quality, well paid jobs into the area. Surely we can do this without encroaching into the AONB and where there are better road links? Regrettably by mid November Sidmouth will have lost three banks and building societies. Far better to turn these buildings into offices, which would help to keep our town vibrant, rather than build new offices on the outskirts.

Roads:

“Traffic cannot cope on this narrow road as it is due to the bottlenecks and number of HGVs already using the A375 - it will not be able to cope with more.

“Highways now agree this is not suitable for HGVs. “For two lorries to pass you need 6.5 metres. The main access for business park would be School Street which has a pinch point of 4.77 metres. There are several points through Sidbury too where the road is less than 5.5m, including Sidbury Mill and Cotford Bridge.

“Surely there should be a weight restriction on this road?

“According to an FOI submitted by the Say No Sidford Business Park campaigners some 30,000 cars travelled along the road in one off-peak week in April.

“I’d like to call for a weigh restriction on these struggling roads.

Endangered Bats and Japanese knotweed:

“The Two Bridges site is an important wildlife site for species that are protected such as horseshoe bats, otters and dormice.

“Knotweed exterminators have been seen on the site - it takes several years to get rid of.

Light Pollution

“The Norman Lockyer Observatory is both historical and the home to an active amateur astronomical society.

It also has plans to build a £70,000 extension so more experiments can take place than ever before.

“The light from any business park there will have an impact on the night sky, which currently has semi rural dark skies status at Sidford.”

Tell us what you think and send us a letter - see page 19 for details.

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