Visitors could “ignore” Sidmouth - warning

Natural England expert’s concern over future vision

A NATURAL ENGLAND expert warned Sidmouth could end up being “ignored” by visitors if current assets and facilities are moved and homes are built in the town.

East Devon’s land use advisor Amanda Newsome told Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce members last Wednesday: “The town needs to retain what it’s got when it looks to future developments.”

The Herald has reported in previous weeks how civic leaders say homes could be built at the site of Sidmouth College, if a new education campus was created north of the A3052.

A councillor also suggested the town rugby club should move so a new health centre can be provided.

“My main concern at the moment is the town and district councils need to think carefully about what their vision is for the future of Sidmouth,” said Mrs Newsome.

“Everything is going to turn into housing in the town. Everything else is going to be pushed to the periphery and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).”

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Debate on the future of the Alexandria Industrial Estate and a decision to build apartments in place of the Fortfield Hotel were other areas of concern.

“What you’re going to be left with in the town is a lot of houses. People are just going to drive along the A3052 and forget about Sidmouth for what they usually come here for,” added Mrs Newsome.

“We’re not saying ‘no’ to development in AONBs. We’re saying to the district council that, if there is a need to go outside the town, you need to do some kind of appraisal on where you put these things, and look at which bits of the AONB are best for developments.”

Sidmouth Garden Centre owner Ian Barlow said the town has grown during the last 50 years and wanted to know if Natural England would ‘sit down and work’ with businesses.

He suggested development could take place in an AONB that would “keep it beautiful” and produce “something that sets an example to the rest of the country”.

Chamber secretary Sylvia Brownlee added: “I think we should say no to developments in the AONB.”