Donkey Sanctuary plans backed

A photomontage of how the new entrance would look

A photomontage of how the new entrance would look - Credit: Archant

A ‘substantial reorganisation’ of a major Sidmouth tourist attraction and employer has won the support of civic leaders, who say the proposals will be a boost for the town.

A photomontage of how the new restaurant would look

A photomontage of how the new restaurant would look - Credit: Archant

Plans put forward by The Donkey Sanctuary include a new 236-seat café restaurant, a larger car park and improved access.

As part of its ‘master plan’, the charity is also proposing to make alterations to several of the barns at the site, near Salcombe Regis, to improve the experience for its projected 360,000 annual visitors by 2018.

The improvements were considered by Sidmouth Town Council’s planning committee last week.

Councillor Ian Barlow was supportive of the plans, saying the sanctuary was a ‘huge draw’ to tourists.

He added: “It’s a huge employer for the area. If the district council leaves, it’ll be the biggest employer in the town.

“The biggest thing we’ve got to decide here is – it’s in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Most Read

“But the AONB is not sacrosanct. If there is a social or economic need that outweighs the damage to the environment, then at the end of the day we should support it.”

Cllr Graham Liverton agreed, adding: “Really, The Donkey Sanctuary has been a victim of its own success and it needs to increase.

“This is a special case and I think the AONB, as much as we guard it with our life, has to be worked in as well, and used. Or else what’s the point?”

Cllr Jeff Turner expressed concerns over the expansion of the facility, which he said was in danger of becoming a ‘fairly large industrial site’ in the AONB.

He said: “I recognise this is a great charity that does marvellous work.

“I really don’t see the need for this huge increase in the tourist facilities. I really think it’s big enough. Every meal served in the new restaurant will probably be one less served in the pubs and restaurants down in the town or elsewhere.”

Members voted to support the proposals.

East Devon District Council will decide the fate of the plans.