'Jurassic Park' plan for East Devon still alive

PUBLISHED: 07:44 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 17:23 25 June 2013

Archant

A RECOMMENDATION to oppose the inclusion of Sidmouth and East Devon's area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in a new national park was rejected following talks.

Plans to connect a number of protected sites in the region and Dorset have been proposed by a campaign group – but district council officers fear the move would cost the authority planning powers.

They wanted the suggestion to be dismissed amid concerns any such move would put ‘enormous pressure’ on housing and restrict where development could take place.

The Dorset and East Devon National Park Group says its proposals would lead to economic, social and environmental benefits. But East Devon District Council cabinet members ruled that the ‘important issue’ required further debate when they met on Wednesday and refused to rule out the bid at such an early stage.

The prospect of the National Park, extending from the outskirts of Exmouth to Poole Harbour will go to the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee before the council decides on what stance to take.

The park would run parallel to the World Heritage Coast and has already been dubbed “Jurassic National Park”.

Dorset authorities have received the idea with support, but East Devon officers were critical and suspected it would displace housing and employment into parts of the district that remained outside the park.

During the cabinet debate, council leader Paul Diviani pointed out that national parks, compared to AONBs, attracted almost four times the financial support from central government.

Earlier in the day, Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce had voted unanimously to support the idea.

It has already been enthusiastically received by Save Our Sidmouth campaigners – with the scheme lauded as a ‘marketing dream’.

A final decision will be made by Natural England.

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