'Plan demands a united front'
PUBLISHED: 06:00 11 June 2014
HOPE has been expressed that Sidmouth can put on a 'united front' when a controversial blueprint for its future is back up for discussion.
The town council is to open talks with campaigners Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) and its constituent organisations over the East Devon Local Plan.
And any local groups are welcome to join in, writes Stefan Gordon.
The district authority’s contentious plan will be the subject of a further consultation after a government inspector ruled that more work needed to be done on it following a public inquiry in February.
Sidmouth was well represented during the hearings – and civic leaders think the town’s interested parties could agree on a number of issues.
The chamber of commerce, Sid Vale Association and the Vision Group for Sidmouth are among key players in SOS.
A people-powered ‘fighting fund’ appeal launched by SOS netted £13,000 from members of the public, which was subsequently match-funded, to employ a planning consultant to argue against the blueprint.
Town councillor Ian Barlow told colleagues at a meeting on Monday: “Everyone was almost in agreement at the end of it [the public inquiry].”
He urged the town council to ‘lead from the front this time’.
“If we can put on a united front, put one voice forward, and tell them what we want as a town it will carry a lot more weight with the inspector,” added Councillor Barlow.
“The district council would not be unwise enough not to listen to us.”
Town council chairman John Hollick said: “We do want to lead. Any group that wants to put forward ideas and come and talk to the town council would be welcome.
“We are arranging a meeting with leaders of various groups, and will see if we can come to some conclusions to that end.”
The allocation of employment land at Sidford and homes at Knowle and Port Royal are among issues relating to the Sid Valley in the Local Plan.
East Devon District Council last month backed an ‘action plan’ to address the failings of the document. It is set to cost taxpayers a further £12,000 in consultants’ fees.