‘War’ cry over future of eastern town

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0934-03-12AW

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0934-03-12AW - Credit: Archant

Anger at plans to redevelop a car park for social housing is a ‘battle’ that risks distracting residents from the ‘war’ over eastern town, a representative has warned.

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0931-03-12AW - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council (EDDC) member Councillor Cathy Gardner said that the authority owns much more land that could be targeted – and Sidmouth could end up with unwanted developments like in Seaton or Exmouth if people do not speak out.

She and Cllr Marianne Rixson are launching a consultation to give residents and businesses a say on what they want – and what they do not.

“This isn’t about the Mill Street car park – it’s about the whole of the eastern side of town,” said Cllr Gardner. “It’s to do with plans for Port Royal and the seafront. Everyone can get excited about the rights and wrongs of increasing parking charges, but it’s part of a bigger picture.

“EDDC owns a lot of land there and I don’t know if people are aware of how much – the lifeboat station, the Drill Hall and the sailing club are all in the Local Plan for development.

“It also owns the car parks - and all of that potentially could be sold off.”

EDDC last month revealed proposals to redevelop its Mill Street car park.

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The authority has drawn up proposals to build affordable housing on the ‘under-performing’ asset. It was accused of orchestrating the situation – but Cllr Gardner said the town was at risk of ‘fighting a battle but losing the war’.

“Eastern town is rough around the edges, but some of that is likely to be deliberate,” she said. “There’s also the beach management plan and any lack of progress there.

“When you look at the bigger picture, things start to make sense. In Exmouth, small businesses seem to have been driven out because they wanted to redevelop the seafront, but for whose benefit? Exmouth didn’t seem to want a Premier Inn. Look at Seaton – there’s no affordable housing, but they got a huge Tesco.

“People need to be aware of how plans can snowball – otherwise EDDC will roll on and it will be done before you know it.

“We’re going to consult and listen to what’s right for Sidmouth. There’s a huge amount of land up for grabs. We need to be speaking out for the people of Sidmouth.”

EDDC’s policy in its draft Local Plan is to ‘promote a mixed-use redevelopment of the east end and Drill Hall site on The Esplanade’.The area is allocated for 30 homes.

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