Council makes ‘error’ over industrial land say Chamber

Around 50 acres of employment land has been allocated for East Devon wrongly, according to Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce.

The district council’s ‘Local Plan’ allocates the amount of land for industrial use, office space and retail outlets each town will need in the next 15 years through figures on how many commuters leave towns for work.

But a statement by Richard Eley, chairman of the chamber of commerce, said they have noticed a ‘major error’ in East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) calculations, resulting in a ‘substantial over-provision of employment land’.

Mr Eley said instead of listing a net out-commuting figure for each town, taking into account people who travel to the town for employment, as it indicated, EDDC has mistakenly inserted the gross figure of those who commute out of Sidmouth.

He said this will have significant implications for the communities and countryside of East Devon.

The current draft, which is out for consultation, earmarks enough land to create 800 to 1,000 jobs in Sidmouth.

He said: “In the case of Sidmouth, the amount of extra employment land proposed by the District Council should have been 1.13 hectares rather than 5.38 hectares.

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“District-wide, the over-provision caused by the error totals nearly 20 hectares.”

The chamber chairman said few people in Sidmouth could understand why, with very low unemployment levels, a declining working population and very few new houses planned, why the town would need so many jobs over the next fifteen years.

He added: “We now know that the explanation for this very high allocation was a mistake.”

But a spokesman for EDDC said it stood by its figures, explaining the council used ‘out-commuting’ figures from the 2001 Census as a starting guide, considered what land requirements would be needed if these were halved and then if one new job were created for every extra house built.

The spokesman confirmed: “The Local Plan is factually accurate in the assessment of these figures.”

But he added: “We are aware that people have questioned aspects of our policy approach on this and other issues; we encourage this questioning and indeed it is why we are running this review.”

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