Now the wait – Sidford Business Park’s fate in inspector’s hands

A site layout showing the fixed layout of buildings for the proposed development at the site at Two

A site layout showing the fixed layout of buildings for the proposed development at the site at Two Bridges Road in Sidford. - Credit: Archant

Sidford has a long wait until it finds out whether or not it will be getting a multimillion pound business park.

It is understood it will take planning inspector Luke Fleming more than six weeks to make a decision on the application for an 8,445sqm of employment space, which could consist of offices, storage units and associated works - including flood works and a cycle path.

The proposals were rejected by East Devon District Council (EDDC) last year and an appeal was launched by OG Holdings Retirement Benefit Scheme, of which Mike and Tim Ford are trustees.

A planning inquiry at Blackdown House concluded on Thursday (July 18) after three days of arguments for and against the development.

The planning inspector was presented evidence from EDDC, the public and the appellant.

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In his closing argument, Richard Kimblin QC, representing the appellant, said the need for employment and the low traffic accident record should be 'compelling' reasons to grant permission.

Mr Kimblin SAID there was no new employment land in or around Sidmouth or room at existing sites.

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He said there are pinch points on the A375 near the Two Bridges site, but that they are a common feature of rural areas and drivers 'adapted accordingly'.

He said: "You have been troubled by this sterile highways debate for no good reason.

"There are no material considerations which point the other way. Rather, the compelling need and long-standing failures to make provision for local employment needs are strong reasons to support the grant."

EDDC barrister Hashi Mohamed said the appellant struggled to address a number of concerns during the inquiry and the inspector should uphold its decision to refuse the scheme on highway grounds.

Mr Mohamed said the appellant's witness Joseph Marchant 'repeatedly' said the scheme would not be viable without the warehouse portion for storage and distribution (B8) use. It has been argued the B8 use would bring more HGV lorries onto the surrounding roads.

Mr Mohamed told the inquiry: "This clearly blurs matters of addressing safety concerns flowing from the B8 use and matters of financial and commercial viability.

"In order to make this scheme commercially viable highway safety would need to be compromised. In order to make this venture sound, we are told, the unacceptably high increase in HGV movements to be introduced into a rural locality is a price worth paying.

"No amount of scaled down comparison between this and the previous proposal changes the reality of the impact.

"The notion that the concerns over safety could be met by local people 'adjusting' their driving to deal with the concerns raised similarly does not stand up to scrutiny."

Mr Mohamed said the applicant claimed 'undue strength' in its argument on the fact the site is along an A-road.

He said: "There are plenty of reasons and evidence presented to support the proposition that there is enough unacceptable impact on highway safety to result in permission being refused or prevented on highway grounds.

"The pinch points, road widths and the prevailing local conditions as expressed in the sole reason for refusal all mean that the increase of HGV movements proposed by appellant would be unacceptably high."

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