3.5hectares of parkland could be open to public from autumn

PUBLISHED: 06:55 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 12:57 15 April 2019

The parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2187. Picture: Terry Ife

The parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2187. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

‘Significant’ parkland which would not be available for three years could belong to the town as soon as autumn.

The parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2185. Picture: Terry IfeThe parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2185. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Town Council revealed on Monday night 3.5hectres of land at Knowle could be transferred sooner than expected after members were told the land and car park would not be available until the completion of PegasusLife's 113-home retirement community.

Town clerk Christopher Holland told the meeting the developer has decided to build its 113-home retirement community in phases, rather than one go, meaning it will be able to contain its construction materials without using the public car park.

In November, the Herald revealed the developer had been allowed the use of the lower car park and meadow as storage space for the duration of the works.

The council is in discussion with East Devon District Land about the land and the lower car park, which it hopes can be extended at a later date.

The parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2177. Picture: Terry IfeThe parkland at The Knowle. Ref shs 15 19TI 2177. Picture: Terry Ife

Mr Holland told councillors: “It's good news at the end of the day, when we were discussing a three year deadline a number of you expressed some disappointment that it was going to be so long, so this is bringing things forward quite a bit but very dependent on Pegasus themselves.

“With trees come responsibility, if you want to have public parkland open to the public to view, it's the same as The Byes, you have to manage your trees carefully. All we are trying to do in our negotiations is get enough finance with the park to be able to look after it in the first few years without it being an additional burden on the Sidmouth tax payer.”

The parkland, which contains an arena space, was once a site for performers during Sidmouth's annual folk festival, and could be used for public events.

Councillor Ian McKenzie-Edwards said: “My person feeling here is this is a very significant and valuable piece of land within Sidmouth. I will feel a lot happier when it's in our bank and its secured. I can see in the future great economic and social benefit from the use of this land.”

Councillors raised questions about carrying out a tree survey and maintenance works had been carried out following the last sit visit three years ago.

Mr Holland confirmed the majority of the work had been carried out including large section of railings completely replaced or rewelded, and the brickwork around the buttresses of the trees where they were pushing out have been done.

Cllr Marc Kilsbie added: “I have the same observation and mindfulness that there are no restrictions and caveats put in there preventing what can and cannot take place on the parkland. Otherwise if there are huge restrictions on how it can be used it's a white elephant not an asset.”

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