Plan for debate over industrial site quashed

A motion to give councillors another chance to debate the controversial industrial estate planned for a beauty spot between Sidford and Sidbury was quashed this week.

At Wednesday’s meeting around protesters from Sidmouth attended Knowle, hoping to convince councillors to rethink the proposal for a five hectare employment land site.

Richard Thurlow, chairman of the campaign group SOS, asked whether the council was willing to ignore the thousands of signatories to a petition agonist the allocation, and whether the exceptional circumstances required to build on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty had been met.

Barry Curwen, another Sidmouth resident, asked why at the previous meeting where the latest draft of the Local Plan was rubber-stamped, Sidford and Sidbury members were unable to debate the contentious proposal.

In response, the chairman of the council’s Development Management Committee (DMC), Councillor Mark Williamson, said he recognised how contentious the proposal was, but said the principles behind it were sound.

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Councillor Mike Allen, the former chair of the Local Plan panel, said he didn’t believe the councillors had been in possession of the full facts about the plan, and proposed a special full council meeting was called to debate it properly.

In reference to the Sidford/Sidbury allocation, he said there was a need to look further into it before it is included in the final draft.

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This motion was supported by Sidford representative Graham Troman, who said he was upset he was not given a chance to debate at the DMC meeting last week.

But council leader Paul Diviani said it did not make procedural sense, as the plan was about to go out to consultation again, and another unnecessary meeting would delay the already protracted process further.

The motion was defeated, but Stuart Hughes agreed the Overview and Scrutiny Committee would look into the methodology of how the plan was drafted in March next year.

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