Sidmouth employment land fear in future vision

SIDMOUTH’S future could feature a search for employment land equivalent in size to 11 football pitches.

Concerned business leaders this week expressed fears a potential 12 acres of commercial development will match the proportion of the town’s existing shopping space.

“We will end up with an urban inertia area,” one trader warned.

Residents will get their say on a 15-year vision for the town, which also proposes 150 new homes, when a public consultation is launched next month.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs say employment is high on their agenda after a panel plotting the future of the region until 2026 met for the last time on Tuesday. Where and when new commercial sites are created in Sidmouth will not be considered immediately, as other towns, like Exmouth and Honiton, will take priority.

EDDC has suggested in its draft Local Plan that Sidmouth will need five hectares of new employment sites to “thrive”. The Local Development Framework (LDF) document also features a predicted 150 homes in addition to the 344 that are already under construction or have been granted planning permission.

Sidmouth’s ‘strategic allocation’ for employment land, deemed vital to delivering EDDC’s overall planning strategy where specific sites have been identified, is in fact zero. However, its ‘non-strategic allocation’, land the council believes - in principle - Sidmouth is likely to need “in order to thrive”, is five hectares.

Most Read

“These later (non-strategic) allocations will be subject to the normal checks and balances, including full consultation with the community before the site(s) that would deliver the objective have been identified,” said an EDDC spokesperson.

“There is no strategic allocation for Sidmouth. The amount of employment land required is to satisfy local need and reflects feedback from previous consultations. Sites will need to be identifies at a later stage in the plan process.”

Vision Group for Sidmouth, Sid Vale Association and Sidmouth and District Hospitality Association leaders issued a plea to the LDF Panel over employment land allocation.

They labelled the proposed five hectares of commercial development as “monolithic”, “clearly excessive” and “fundamentally detrimental to Sidmouth”.

Members of EDDC’s LDF Panel spent 13 weeks compiling the document. The draft plan will go before the authority’s Development Management Committee on November 18 before being shared with the public in December and January.

Members of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee expressed concern at proposals for the town’s future when they met on Tuesday evening.

Chairman Richard Eley, who made submissions to EDDC, said he was “perplexed” the town needed 12 acres of employment land plus the Alexandria Industrial Estate.

He added the mooted allocation - the size of five cricket pitches – is similar to the town’s existing shopping centre.

He feared EDDC was “hell bent on providing large tracts of employment land” in the region.

Steven Kendall-Torry said the equivalent of 11 football pitches of employment land would be in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).