SOS campaigners to fight Sidmouth future vision

BRITAIN’S oldest civic society has joined forces with traders and hoteliers to issue an SOS - “Save Our Sidmouth” - over controversial plans for the town’s future.

A campaign group launched this week is urging residents to “wake up” and ensure the parish has its voice heard on East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) draft Local Plan.

The Sid Vale Association (SVA) and Sidmouth’s chamber of commerce and the hospitality association have teamed up to express “significant concerns” that proposals will ‘desecrate’ green beauty spots with homes and industrial units.

Campaigners said on Wednesday: “We’re not NIMBYs, but Sidmouth is special.”

The organisations, which have a combined membership of around 3,000 people, fear Sidmouth will become ‘overdeveloped’ if the parish doesn’t have its say.

They have called a public meeting next Thursday, April 26, at the Manor Pavilion Theatre, at 7pm, so a debate can take place over the future of the valley.

They want EDDC to listen and to justify a need for what it proposes.

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The authority has earmarked a plot of land between Sidford and Sidbury to accommodate an employment site of up to 12 acres.

The blueprint also proposes 150 homes and pinpoints Knowle and Port Royal among possible development sites.

Save Our Sidmouth (SOS) leaders this week expressed fears that the employment site could be targeted by a major supermarket in the future if it fails to attract industrial interest.

Ed Harrison, SOS organiser and the SVA’s planning committee chairman, fears the plan will have a “significant effect on the beautiful and unique setting of the town”.

He added: “The current proposals seek to change the status quo and, if implemented, will sacrifice almost 30 acres of our green belt to unwarranted development. SOS opposes further building in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

“We’re not saying ‘no’ to anything,” said Steven Kendall-Torry, chairman of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce. “Our voices aren’t being heard as much as they should.”

Alan Darrant, SVA chairman, said: “We want Sidmouth to retain its character. If it doesn’t, it’s not going to be the desired destination for thousands of people a year. EDDC has got the wrong picture of how Sidmouth should progress.”

The Vision Group for Sidmouth threw its support behind SOS and traders at a chamber of commerce meeting on Wednesday, unanimously backed the campaign.