Victory in fight to see 12-acre Sidford business park ditched


xxxx - Credit: Archant

Divisive plans for a 12-acre business park in Sidford are being scrapped after an eleventh-hour bid from Sid Valley representatives.

Sidford Valley. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 2244-39-12TI

Sidford Valley. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 2244-39-12TI - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council (EDDC) voted 18 to 15 in favour of a motion to remove the employment land allocation from the draft Local Plan, its blueprint for development until 2031.

But the move could falter – with Mark Williams, the authority’s chief executive, warning ‘it’s your funeral’ to members who could face the wrath of a government inspector for pulling the allocation at such a late stage.

Speaking at last Thursday’s meeting, Councillor Stuart Hughes said: “The Sidford site has always been contentious, with many valid reasons to delete it from the draft plan – flooding, traffic, impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), no proven need.”

He said the ‘most disturbing game-changer’ was the removal of the word ‘ancillary’ in plans for the Sidford site – phrasing that was meant to prevent it becoming a retail park.

“It would appear to leave the door open to a mini Cribbs Causeway [Bristol’s out-of-town shopping centre] on our doorstep and which would put the final nail in the coffin of our town centre businesses,” said Cllr Hughes.

Cllr Graham Troman - who was also behind the motion - said that, by the council’s own measures, the 150 homes allocated to Sidmouth equates to 150 jobs – but using the calculations again, the 12-acre site would be expected to generate 1,250 jobs.

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He added that the 150 jobs would need just 1.5 acres – which could be delivered at the Alexandria Industrial Estate.

There are currently around 60 unemployed people in Sidmouth.

Cllr Andrew Moulding defended the Sidford allocation, and said: “There are probably 1,000 students at Sidmouth College. That’s probably 150 young people coming out every year looking for jobs.

“A number of those will go to college or university, but there must be those who perhaps aren’t so academic who will want jobs in some form of industrial application.”

Cllr Moulding was accused by Cllr Mike Allen of being the person responsible for the allocation’s original inclusion in the plan.

Cllr Allen said: “There’s no demand, no economic case and it would damage the tourism industry in Sidmouth. There’s no justification for keeping it. Please could we get rid of this site once and for all.”

EDDC chief executive Mr Williams told members: “The inspector has already heard everything we have said and is yet to tell us what his view is on that part of the application. He may recommend that this site is not suitable and should be removed. It’s his decision now, not yours.

“It’s your funeral if you want to take it out.”

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