Saturday 22 March 2014

The future of the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate

The issues around the Alexandria Rd site were covered at the Sidmouth sessions of the public examination of the draft local plan:
Futures Forum: Public Examination of the New East Devon Local Plan ... Sidmouth: the issues for Tuesday 11th March
Futures Forum: Public Examination of the New East Devon Local Plan... SIDMOUTH: press reports

“There are alternative sites in and around the town that could be used for employment, some which are under used, such as the Alexandria Industrial Estate."
“Sidmouth does not need so much employment land”: Residents and councillors tell a Government planning inspector | Exeter Express and Echo
"Sidmouth’s economic formula is successful with a broadly thriving strategy… Whilst diversification is desirable, it should not be at the expense of what is already there. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it"
Sidmouth’s economy: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” , today’s EiP hearing told. | Save Our Sidmouth

The SOS blog has been covering the issues for some time now:

Rumours are circulating about Sidmouth’s in-town industrial estate at Alexandria Road.
Here are some of the questions being asked:
> Is the site fully used at present?
> Is a supermarket giant interested in buying it?
> Who owns the ransom strips (land blocking access to the site from Bulverton Road)?
> Would access from Bulverton Road be problematic anyway?

Questions about Alexandria Road | Save Our Sidmouth

The in-town Industrial Estate at Sidmouth’s Alexandria Road is rumoured to be a possible site for change of use to a large supermarket.
The public are asking these questions:
> What is there now? What would be the best use for this site?
> Could the access problems be solved, as some Town Councillors have suggested?
> Where are the ransom strips, and who owns them?

Alexandria Rd Industrial Estate, Sidmouth

Alexandria Road Estate | Save Our Sidmouth

The Sidmouth Independent News site has also covered the issues:

What you can do when access to a site is a problem
23OCT 2012
Article here 
Morrisons set to unveil its latest plans for Plymouth shop expansion | Plymouth Herald about a Morrison store in Plymouth which wants to expand by building a huge extension and a larger car park. They basically want to double the size of the store. Planners said that it should be refused because access and traffic would be a problem. Morrisons withdrew the plans at the last minute to revamp the access and are resubmitting them. This is what supermarkets do and eventually they seem to find a solution to their problems. Morrisons went on to say “The firm said it has listened planners and neighbouring residents," and revised its plans to ensure “traffic keeps moving in and around the store and to prevent congestion on any of the neighbouring roads”, though oddly consultation is being done INSIDE their store and not outside, so only their shoppers are being asked for their opinions – something that often happens with consultations it seems.
We are constantly being told that the problem with the Alexandria Industrial estate growth is access and that a supermarket would never go there because of this. This shows what a supermarket is prepared to do to get that kind of access problem sorted if it wants to expand – start small then double up, keep hammering away and eventually you succeed. This has already happened in Axminster where the Tesco store got planning permission for a second floor, though they have not built it, presumably because a lot of their customers now shop in Seaton. There was also the plan for Tesco to move in Honiton so that they could double up too, though that one got knocked on the head because it was said that trade in Honiton would suffer (whereas the effect on trade in Axminster and Seaton was not considered a problem). Where there is a will there is a way. So, it is no use saying a supermarket would not be interested in a site with so-called poor access.
Some may say that there is no money for Joe Public to make access improvements so that an industrial site does not have to move. This is not true. Councils can now basically put a tax on development called the “Community Infrastructure Levy” which is paid per square metre of development elsewhere. According to the Department of Communities and Local Government
“The money can be used to support development by funding infrastructure that the council, local community and neighbourhoods want – for example new or safer road schemes, park improvements or a new health centre. The system is very simple. It applies to most new buildings and charges are based on the size and type of the new development.”
So, for example, developers in the west side of East Devon (where it might be said to help Exeter commuters more than East Devon residents) could be made to pay this levy and Sidmouth and the other towns and villages of East Devon could benefit.
East Devon District Council set up a Task and Finish Forum (TAFF) to decide how much the Community Infrastructure Levy should be for East Devon’s developers. Unfortunately, on EDDC’s website there appears to be nothing about how much progress it has made except the agendas of two meetings, the last one on 27 June 2012 – no minutes.
Members of this TAFF are: Graham Troman (Chairman, Sidmouth Sidford), Mike Allen (Honiton, St Michaels), Peter Bowden (Broadclyst), Mike Howe (Clyst Valley), Sheila Kerridge (Sidmouth Town), Tim Wood (Exmouth Littleham) and Claire Wright (Ottery St Mary Rural) so, oddly for this one it is a western end of East Devon bias, totally opposite to that of the Cabinet and it is the west of East Devon that might lose out here!
Why is EDDC and the TAFF dragging its heels on taxing developers? The old Section 106 payments are now going down the drain, so that source of income is drying up for EDDC and anyway that money had to be spent close to the development itself -CIL can be spent anywhere in the district. Perhaps we should ask them what progress is being made as this could solve some of the district’s pressing problems.
And now we see here today that the “Exeter Growth Point” has been awarded an £8 million grant for infrastructure improvements. To them that hath shall be given!

What you can do when access to a site is a problem | Sidmouth Independent News

See also: Futures Forum: 'Planning gain' - the replacement for S106 cash from developers - the Community Infrastructure Levy - but is it still 'bribery' by a different name?

The letters and reports pages of the Herald have been very active over the years:

Save our village
Sunday, September 9, 2012
To East Devon District Council planning department from members of the Sidford and Sidbury communities.
We live in the Sidmouth valley, and I work for a local business that is proposing development of business land at Sidford. I and many others from the Sidford /Sidbury area are deeply concerned about the proposed development at Sidford for new business land, and, after a public meeting at Sidford hall with a resounding NO from nearly every resident from the area, that it still seems to be on the agenda!
It is no secret that the developer of the site is currently looking to sell their current location to a large supermarket and “has to have somewhere else to operate from” once this has happened.
But, also, duty rumour is once the deal is done with the supermarket and new business land at Sidford they will be taking the money and running. I know for fact that they are already laying staff off.

Save our village - Letters - Sidmouth Herald
Alexandria Road site under used - Letters - Sidmouth Herald

Morrisons eyes up Sidmouth estate
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons has declared an interest in the Alexandria Industrial Estate, say the owners of a fourth generation family firm that owns half of the site.

Forced sale of “ransom strip” is “key” to future - Sidmouth councillors
Monday, May 14, 2012
Councillor Stuart Hughes said: “Access off the B3176 is key to allowing the Alexandria estate to reach its full potential. The way forward is the compulsory purchase of the ransom strip (a small piece of land next to Bulverton Park). That is the only option and this council holds the key to unlocking this particular asset.”

Forced sale of “ransom strip” is “key” to future - Sidmouth councillors - News - Sidmouth Herald
£40k bid for road to industrial estate - News - Sidmouth Herald

‘New indsutrial estate for Sidmouth’- plea
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
PLANNING chiefs plotting Sidmouth’s future should hand the town a brand new industrial estate and build houses on its current one, civic leaders have urged.
Town representatives have asked East Devon District Council (EDDC) to change a strategy document which proposes the creation of 12 acres of employment land and 720 new homes in the town.
They want to see a new employment site to the north of Sidmouth AND improved access to the Alexandria Industrial Estate - branded “past its sell-by date”.
Residents might have to “swallow” a new industrial estate being built in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) for the good of the town, said Councillor Graham Liverton at a Sidmouth Town Council Trustee meeting on Monday.
“We have to bite the bullet,” he said, “if Sidmouth is to survive and carry on it’s vital. We want to get away from Alexandria Road. That industrial estate needs to be moved, it would be better for housing.”

‘New indsutrial estate for Sidmouth’- plea - News - Sidmouth Herald

This letter was sent to the local plan Inspector before the final session on Sidmouth a fortnight ago and is published here with permission of the author - a copy of which has appeared in the latest Herald:

10th March 2014
For the attention of:
Mr Anthony Thickett
HM Planning Inspector for ED Local Plan

Dear Inspector,

The Need for a new entrance to the "Alex"

In respect to the Sidmouth section of the Local Plan it is the offer by a major supermarket to purchase the Alexandria Industrial Estate which is underwriting the proposed industrial development in the Sidford AONB and is the generator of the EDDC's masterplan for the extensive redistribution of employment land in the valley. Should this be allowed to proceed it will have a considerable impact on the economic vitality of the town centre and the run-off will contribute to flooding downstream at Port Royal. The Bulverton Road access to the industrial estate is therefore the lynchpin to the whole employment land debate in the resort.

The Alexandria site has operated under capacity and has been neglected over many years, but with some modest reconfiguring such as an improved access it is capable of accommodating more employment space. You asked who will do it but Morrison's included just such an entrance location in their plans for their supermarket and filling station. During the late afternoon discussions on the 25th February the case against increasing capacity and introducing a new vehicle entrance were deliberately over‑stated by the Ford's agent. We were told the access road was problematic because it would cost El m to install and that the ransom strip was owned by 13 different parties. On this matter as I fear the persuasive powers of the Ford's agent were intended to distract, I would recommend an independent assessment is made.

Former local professionals without a vested interest estimate the cost for a simple T junction to be more like £300K and this could be financed by building a series of business units along the strip as per the diagrams below. Furthermore I do not foresee any planning reasons against permitting a new means of access. The number of owners however is irrelevant as we are only interested in one particular section of the ransom strip. On the question of who owns this particular part of the site, according to local knowledge nearly all the land belongs to Colin Mayor and his brother in law Colin Farnsworth a former co-director of Skinners Construction. It is a clearly a case of where there is a will there is a way!

Consequently a cost benefit analysis of whether the access is viable would have to be compared with the cost to Sidmouth of further large scale out-of-town retail and commercial development. Currently Sidmouth has a well distributed and sustainable live-work balance but the proposed single zone of 5 hectares lacks evidence and has poor transport connectivity. On the other hand the more sensible Roger Tym's calculations of 1 hectare of employment land is achievable by refiguring the Alexandria estate and introducing mixed developments in Eastern Town and on brown field sites elsewhere. Please note the views expressed above are largely shared by the Sidmouth Town Council and the majority of people in the town.

Yours sincerely
Graham Cooper (Sidmouth Resident)

Please refer to site 001A above. You will find this highlighted strip of land has a long tail stretching down to the old station building.

Access, however, is required through the section indicated.

A simple T-junction paid for by the new B1 offices.

Home - Sidmouth Herald

There were several submissions from the public to the draft local plan consultation highlighting the issues around the Alexandria Rd site:

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