Plans to build green units in Sidmouth’s AONB withdrawn

Cllr Ian Barlow is seeking to install more buildings at Sidmouth Garden Centre. Ref shs 9069-45-14AW

Cllr Ian Barlow is seeking to install more buildings at Sidmouth Garden Centre. Ref shs 9069-45-14AW Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A Sidmouth businessman has withdrawn his application to build two green units in the Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB), after failing to win the town’s support.

Ian Barlow, owner of Sidmouth Garden Centre, planned to erect eco-employment units behind the current veterinary practice, but civic leaders voted unanimously against backing his proposal.

Mr Barlow - who is also a town councillor – has called the verdict ‘short sighted’, but said he will not fight against the representative voice of the town.

He added: “I do not want to upset the people of Sidmouth. I did what I thought was right and what I thought the people of Sidmouth wanted.”

Mr Barlow put the plans forward as an alternative to East Devon District Council’s draft Local Plan – in which a 12-acre employment site between Sidford and Sidbury has been earmarked.

“I did it because at the end of the day, the town did not want the Sidford employment land and I wanted to prove we could provide a better alternative, even though it cost more.”

Town councillors voiced concerns that the application could set a precedent of building on the AONB - something they said they could not support.

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Increased traffic on what is already considered a dangerous junction was also a concern. It was decided the plans do not warrant an exceptional circumstance to justify building on the AONB.

Mr Barlow said he feels at a disadvantage because of his position on the council, and also hit back at critics, in particular those who have accused him of seeking profit under the guise of caring about the area.

“I am a business person, that is what I do and if I did not do it for profit, I would not be around very long. But, I could make much more profit with a small, steel formed building, than the building we designed,” he said.

He added it is 50 per cent more expensive to build the sustainable units he was proposing, which were designed to blend in with the AONB.

“Some people hold the view that the reason I have gone on the council is to influence planning applications. That is not the case,” he said.

“It is a disadvantage being a councillor - I could not go to them and argue my case, whereas everyone else can do that.”

“Sidmouth town has to understand that smaller, or larger, we are going to have forced upon us a certain amount of employment land. Do they want smaller units, or do they want a thumping great development at Sidford?

“We are special and we deserve better.”