Centre advice mix-up

PUBLISHED: 09:41 01 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:46 17 June 2010

HE HAS received overwhelming support from his customers, but Sidmouth Garden Centre owner Ian Barlow is concerned about further conflicting advice to him from EDDC over the future of Riverford Farm Shop.

HE HAS received "overwhelming" support from his customers, but Sidmouth Garden Centre owner Ian Barlow is concerned about further conflicting advice to him from EDDC over the future of Riverford Farm Shop.

Its chief executive, Mark Williams, told the Herald he rang Mr Barlow to invite him to now submit an application "on the basis of the expressions of sympathy that the councillors at the meeting had made."

But a letter from EDDC's development control manager Stephen Belli to Mr Barlow, seems to imply he would be refused permission.

Mr Williams writes: "I suggested to him (Mr Barlow) that the best way to deal with this matter would be for an application to come in seeking a relaxation of the planning condition so that the Riverford Farm Shop could continue to operate on a personal basis for a period of seven years, which I understand is the length of lease that the farm shop currently has at the premises."

However, Mr Belli's letter, received on Tuesday by Mr Barlow, states: "Members of the committee instructed me to request a retrospective planning application.

"You can of course refuse such a request and can appeal against an enforcement notice on the grounds that planning permission should be granted.

"It is likely... that the recommendation of the head of planning and countryside to any such application would be to refuse permission for the reasons set out already."

These conditions state items "ancillary" to the garden centre can be sold, which, after discussions with council officers and emails to him, Mr Barlow understood gave him the go-ahead to lease to Riverford.

Mr Barlow said: "I have spoken to my solicitor and he is looking into it.

"People are shocked and asking what have we done to upset the council? I have always tried to work with them, I've supported their garden scheme and do everything for the community I can because it is my community."

He emphasised the planning officer involved in his original planning application and Mr Belli were copied the e-mail advice he was given.

"If I had been told last October I needed to put in an application for change of use I would have done. If they turn me down now, where does that leave me?"

An EDDC spokesman said the Waitrose store is "within the town boundary" and no other site was available for a large food store in town, which is how it was granted permission.

"Conversely, the farm shop could easily operate from either Sidmouth town centre or another town-centre location.

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