Sidmouth retirement community bid ‘could be scrapped’

Footpath wrangle threatens 12 home scheme

DEVELOPERS will ditch their vision for a town-centre retirement community in Sidmouth if a footpath diversion decision is overturned.

‘Frustrated’ forces behind a bid to transform Parsons Yard into 12 homes will scrap the project if the outcome of a public inquiry doesn’t go their way.

Blue Cedar Homes bosses say ‘Mill Gardens’ would be half-built by now if it weren’t for a wrangle over a public right of way that currently cuts through the site.

The Planning Inspectorate will decide whether to uphold or reverse a county council order to divert a pedestrian route linking Holmdale to Mill Street so it bypasses Parsons Yard.

A two-day hearing will take place at Sidmouth Methodist Church Hall on January 31 after residents and civic leaders lodged objections. Blue Cedar chiefs requested the security-minded diversion as part proposals to build a ‘gated’ estate, featuring ten cottages and two apartments, that were granted planning permission in February.

A spokesman for the developer said: “We wouldn’t be able to proceed with the scheme if the footpath wasn’t diverted.

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“That decision has been made, and is one that’s been confirmed by those who’ve expressed interest in the scheme.

“We’ve had about 60 people register their interest. The vast majority are from Sidmouth.

“If the appeal is allowed, the site will stay as it is.

“We intended to be on site in spring of this year, and would be half way through the build programme, but this has absolutely scuppered us. It’s very frustrating.”

Gates to the proposed development would remain open in daylight hours.

“It’s not a high security estate by any means, it’s just private,” added the spokesman. He said protecting “vulnerable” occupants was the firm’s “greatest concern”.

Sidmouth Town Council objected to the footpath diversion order.

Councillor John Dyson, chairman of the Parish Paths Partnership, said: “We felt quite strongly that the proposed diversion is unnecessary.

“The nature of the route is going to be irrevocably changed by this action.

“The council was also uncomfortable with the proposal for a gated community.

“It might be appropriate for London, but it’s certainly not appropriate for this part of the world.”

Cllr Dyson encouraged residents to make representations to the Planning Inspectorate by December 8.