‘Green units won’t destroy our AONB’

Cllr Ian Barlow is seeking to install more buildings at Sidmouth Garden Centre. Ref shs 9067-45-14AW

Cllr Ian Barlow is seeking to install more buildings at Sidmouth Garden Centre. Ref shs 9067-45-14AW Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A businessman who wants to build employment units on Sidmouth’s scenic surroundings says his unique plans prove that development does not need to mean the destruction of the countryside.

Ian Barlow, owner of Sidmouth Garden Centre, has submitted an application for two new units on land behind the green-roofed veterinary practice constructed earlier this year.

He says the emphasis is on building sustainable units and providing opportunities for local businesses and employees - so they can stay in the Sid Valley.

“It doesn’t have to be like every other industrial estate in the country, it can be a little bit different and keep Sidmouth special,” said Mr Barlow.

He started drawing up plans as an alternative to East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) draft Local Plan - which includes a site earmarked for 12 acres of employment land between Sidford and Sidbury.

“The EDDC plan is no benefit to the town,” said Mr Barlow.

“When you get to a certain size, you move to where the people are.

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“We did not need massive car parks, so we started looking at what Sidmouth really needed.”

He added that the design of the new units will reflect that of the vet’s clinic on the site, which is specially crafted to blend in with the surrounding countryside.

Mr Barlow said it was a long struggle to get permission to develop the area at all.

“The reason I argued for five years to get the [vets] unit built is, if Sidmouth is going to develop at all, it has to be in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

“The whole point is to prove you can build something in the AONB and not ruin it.”

The proposed units will be built from sustainable materials, highly insulated and with a unique roof feature, enabling rain water to slowly drain away, preventing flooding.

Richard Heard, the chartered surveyor behind the planning drawings, said: “The object of the exercise is to meet the demand of small business units and local employers and provide employment opportunities for the local population so they do not have to get in their cars and drive to Exeter.”

Mr Barlow says he has already been approached by a number of interested parties and he envisions creating a hub for self-employed people and start-up businesses that compliment each other.