Arguments for Sidford Business Park appeal submitted
PUBLISHED: 12:03 06 June 2019 | UPDATED: 09:18 07 June 2019
Traffic chaos, pollution and an increased danger to pedestrians and cyclists, forced to use a main road, would only get worse if controversial multi-million-pound plans for a business park are approved, a planning inquiry will be told.
Plans to build industrial, storage and business units on agricultural land to the east of Two Bridges Road in Sidford were rejected by East Devon District Council (EDDC) last year.
Applicant Tim Ford has appealed the decision, and a three-day planning inquiry in front of an inspector will take place from 10am on Tuedsay, July 16, at EDDC's HQ at Blackdown House, Honiton. The developer has said the proposals would only see an increase of around 6 per cent to the number of HGVs on the road, a number they call 'insignificant', and, therefore, the refusal on the 'severe' highway safety grounds cannot be supported.
But EDDC in their appeal statement has stood by its refusal, saying there would be severe impacts on Sidford and Sidbury.
The Say No to Sidford Business Park Campaign has submitted a statement for the inquiry and raised concerns over parents being unable to walk safely along the A375, buses and lorries becoming wedged and stuck on narrow parts of the road and HGVs constantly having to mount the pavements to get through.
The outline application is applying for a change of use of land from agricultural to employment and will provide 8,445 sqm of new floorspace, new highway access, cycle and foot paths, improvements to flood attenuation, building layout and road layout, new hedgerow planting and associated infrastructure. The development aims to create 250 full-time jobs.
More than 250 letters of objection have been submitted, and 1,400 residents have signed a petition objecting. Signs and placards against the development have also appeared across the village, although not everyone is against the scheme.
In October, EDDC planners deemed the scheme acceptable in terms of its building form, risk to flooding, impact on neighbours and matters such as landscaping and drainage - saying it could be controlled by way of planning conditions. The authority refused it on highway grounds, after Devon County Council stated the proposed B8 (Storage and/or distribution) uses would result in an increase of HGV traffic on the surrounding road network, both in the vicinity of the site and through Sidbury, which both suffer from inadequate road widths and a lack of footways.
In a statement, the group says: "Increased HGV movements within this area will result in conflicts between vehicles, and between vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, to the detriment of highway safety."
It also submits a range of statements from parents of pupils and governors at Sidbury Primary School, as well as residents of Sidbury and Sidford. A variety of photographs and a video demonstrating the existing problems on the A375 are also included.
EDDC's statement reads: "The proposal to include B8 uses within the employment will generate HGV movements which cannot be satisfactorily accommodated on the road network without severe impacts being felt, particularly within the vicinity of the site at Sidford, and at Sidbury. It is considered that this issue is not outweighed by any benefits of the proposal, and it is not appropriate to attach a planning condition which would be able to ameliorate the harm resulting from the proposed mix of use."
Sidmouth Sidford Ward Councillor Marinanne Rixson also provided evidence of a serious traffic jam in School Street, Sidford - a coach and a refuge lorry both tried to drive in opposite directions on the road, which resulted in a traffic jam lasting for over an hour. She said that it happened at the narrowest part of the A375, where there would be a 21 per cent increase in traffic if permission was granted. She added: "Drivers frequently drive along the narrow footway in School Street, Sidford, because the road is so narrow that oncoming vehicles cannot pass. Where are pedestrians meant to walk in safety, and, already, they are at risk, as drivers regularly use the footway in both Sidbury and Sidford as an extension of the road network, as the A375 is too narrow. During the construction phase, there will be considerable truck movements in and out of the site, presumably via School Street, which is the narrowest part of the A375."
Cllr Stuart Hughes - who represents the ward and is the county councillor for the area, as well as being in charge of highways for Devon County Council (DCC) - said: "The proposed development would be detrimental to the amenity of the residents, with the B8 distribution element of the application seeing an increase in HGV movements and traffic to and from the site 24 hours a day. This will result in additional congestion and adversely impact on the quality of life of the residents and the surrounding properties.
"The proposed development would also see further rat-running around Brook Lane and Frys Lane from drivers seeking to avoid the Sidford Cross traffic lights. No safe walking and cycling facilities have been provided, forcing those from Sidbury to use the very busy and unlit A375.
"Parents who have to walk on the A375 daily have outlined the dangers already presented by traffic on the road, including instances where they have been clipped by passing traffic."
Mr and Mrs Mitchell of Chapel Street, Sidbury, said: "We walk our six-year-old daughter to and from school each day and need to take our three-year-old son with us in a pushchair. Due to the lack of pavement, we all have to walk in the road for 40 metres, and the first point we can access the pavement is just 35cm wide. To access our house, we have no option but to walk in the road - this is frequently very hazardous, and we are not the only family who has to do this.
"During the two years we have been making this journey with our children, we have witnessed regular minor incidents including several incidents of damage to parked cars, cars colliding and vehicles mounting pavements to avoid pinch points.
"Other, more significant incidents have included two occasions where one of us and my neighbour's daughter have been hit by the wing mirrors of passing traffic. The road is already above capacity, so imagine if we throw additional HGV movements into this each day."
A statement prepared by Ashfords LLP on behalf of the applicants claims the increase in traffic on the road proposed by the development would be insignificant.
It says the site falls within EDDC's current Local Plan for employment uses, while the Local Plan strategy allows for flexibility with regards to a range of uses.
The statement says: "Confining the proposed application to only a B1 employment use (offices) would not correspond with market demand, and the application promotes a minimum of 60 per cent of the scheme for office/light industry use.
"In respect of the HGV movements, DCC were satisfied at the local plan examination in public that any impacts of the entire allocation of both phases 1 and 2 could be safely accommodated. That traffic assessment was submitted on the basis of 30 per cent B2 uses and 30 per cent B8 (storage and distribution) uses, over the two phases, generating larger vehicles and HGVs to the allocated site. No new evidence has been produced since this time to explain the change in their stance. Details of the average weekday two-way traffic flows shows, on average, a total of 205 HGVs passed in both directions in a single day, so it is evident HGVs are already using the local road network passing in both directions. The HGV movements forecast to be generated by the B8 component of the 2018 Application are extremely low: 12 movements throughout the day on weekdays.
"These forecasts were based on five comparable site surveys and would, therefore, lead to an increase of around 5-6 per cent in the number of HGVs on this road on a neutral weekday, which would be insignificant. The B8 element proposed, therefore, does not result in any discernible implications on the existing highway network such that they could be deemed to have an unacceptable impact on highway safety. It is the Appellant's case, therefore, that the stance taken by DCC and by East Devon District Council in its decision notice is unsustainable and that the impact on highway safety does not come remotely close to 'severe'."