Rejected: EDDC refuses care facility plans for Sidmouth HQ site

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle. EDDC planning officers voiced concerns about development onto the te

PegasusLife's plans for Knowle. EDDC planning officers voiced concerns about development onto the terraces and the impact on the listed summerhouse - Credit: Archant

District councillors have defied officer advice and refused plans for a 113-apartment retirement community on the site of their current Knowle HQ.

Members of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) development management committee were split on PegasusLife’s proposals and eventually voted against them by seven to six.

The reasons for refusal included overdevelopment and a departure from the site’s 50-home allocation in the authority’s Local Plan. Councillors also held concerns about the lack of ‘affordable’ housing provision in the town.

Residents lined up to voice their opposition to the plans. The Sid Vale Association’s Richard Thurlow said: “Please reject this outrageous proposal and thus give the clear message that PegasusLife must come back with a proposal that really benefits the town and not just their own pockets.”

Rob Whittle, of Knowle Drive, said he would suffer overlooking and lose both privacy and sunlight.

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“We implore you to reject this,” he told the commmittee. “You have the power to help us. In the name of common decency, please do so.”

PegasusLife’s proposals for 113 assisted living apartments for the over-60s and a wellbeing suite focus on the site’s current building footprint and two car parks, but extends onto the terrace towards a listed summerhouse.

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Recommending approval, officers told councillors the development would adversely affect the summerhouse, but the benefits to the public outweigh this harm.

Councillor Paul Carter said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Sidmouth to move forward and lead the way. I’m not sure 50 homes on this site would be enough. Assisted living is the way forward and it’s not just about Sidmouth – this is about East Devon.”

Cllr Helen Parr added: “There are undoubtedly a serious number of benefits to permitting this care facility development here. I cannot see what we would use as reasons for refusal that would stack up at appeal.”

The site’s classification as care accommodation, rather than housing, means PegasusLife would avoid the community infrastructure levy or a payment towards ‘affordable’ housing.

Cllr Matt Coppell said the classification was a ‘blatant attempt’ to avoid those costs. He argued that the flooding attenuation tanks being proposed had repeatedly proved ‘inadequate’, adding: “Time and time again we let developers get away with it.”

Ed Freeman, EDDC’s service lead for planning, replied that the flood prevention proposals had satisfied Devon County Council experts and the impermeable area was actually decreasing by 269 square metres.

Cllr Ben Ingham said: “There are so many reasons why the application should be refused. You have to offset the harm to the listed summerhouse against the benefits – there is no tremendous benefit.

“We need 400 care home spaces across the district. By creating them here, they won’t be created elsewhere in the district.”

He said the result would be imbalanced communities in Sidmouth and across East Devon.

Proposing refusal of the application, Cllr David Barratt said: “My biggest concern is the intrusiveness of the whole development. It would be out of keeping with the whole area. It just doesn’t make sense. The proposal really is massive.”

He also referred to the impact on neighbouring residents and the harm to the listed summerhouse, which he said was not overcome by the benefits of the plans.

Members voted to refuse the plans. PegasusLife now has the option to appeal.

EDDC has agreed a deal to sell the site to the developer for £7.5million, subject to planning permission. The proceeds are meant to fund the authority’s relocation to Honiton and Exmouth.

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