‘We’re ashamed of EDDC’s actions’ - say Knowle campaigners

Angry Sidmouth residents gathered at Knowle Gardens after having their application for a public foot

Angry Sidmouth residents gathered at Knowle Gardens after having their application for a public footpath to run through the grounds rejected. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 5623-26-13AW - Credit: Archant

ANGRY householders say they feel ‘ashamed’ of the district council after a bid to safeguard valued parkland at Knowle from the threat of future development was defeated.

Pleas to register paths through the site into public rights of way have been turned down – and neighbours are up in arms.

Knowle Residents’ Association made an application to Devon County Council (DCC), arguing that the paths have been used by the public for years ‘without hindrance’.

East Devon District Council (EDDC), however, opposed the effort and its objection was upheld.

Homeowners say they are even more upset as they had been supported by the Ramblers’ Association and town council.

Keith Northover, chairman of the Knowle Residents’ Association, said: “I am ashamed at the cynical behaviour of EDDC.

“The park and gardens at Knowle were declared as public pleasure grounds by Sidmouth Urban District Council in order to protect them for use by the public.

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“The district council’s only concern appears to be to limit the rights of the public in order to sell the land for the maximum price to private developers. We shall certainly appeal against this decision.”

A district council spokesman confirmed that DCC rejected two applications by local residents to register public rights of way across the grounds of Knowle.

He added: “One of the applications was refused on the basis that the public’s use has not been ‘as of right’ but rather with the district council’s permission.

“The second application was rejected on the basis that there were not enough users to infer any rights.

“EDDC made representations to the committee, including reiterating that signage has been in place at some of the entry points to the grounds of Knowle for a number of years and the recent renewal of these had been because some of the older signs had become damaged or lost.

“EDDC are aware that people have enjoyed access into and across the parkland at Knowle for many years, albeit with EDDC’s permission, and we fully expect that they will have this benefit in years to come.

“Should any future development go ahead on the Knowle campus, EDDC has made clear its view that the remaining parkland could be given into Sidmouth Town Council’s stewardship for the future.”