Tuesday 24 May 2016

Knowle relocation project > Pegasus planning application 16/0872/MFUL >>> and the rejected planning application 12/1847/MOUT of 1st March 2013 >>> >>> >>> >>> >>> Part one: "Contrary to Policy RE1 (Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation)"

A planning application has been made for the site at Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> PegasusLife planning application >>> 16/0872/MFUL

And there has been very strong reaction:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project >>> SOS response to PegasusLife planning application >>> "intrusive"

Interestingly, the same grounds for refusing the Outline Planning Application on 1st March 2013 still stand - all of which were themselves based on Policies in the Local Plan.

1 - Contrary to Policy RE1 (Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation)

The first point of refusal was the fact that the application was contrary to policies to protect and retain Parks and Recreation Grounds:

Applications for Planning Permission and matters for determination
RESOLVED: that the application 12/1847/MOUT be refused, contrary to Officer recommendation, for the following reasons:

1. The proposed development incorporates the construction of dwellings on parts of the site currently used as an area of open space which forms an important amenity for residents of Sidmouth and should be retained for the benefit of the community. 
The proposal does not include alternative provision of equivalent community benefit and it has not been demonstrated that sports and recreation facilities can best be retained and enhanced through the development. 
Furthermore the Local Planning Authority is not satisfied that the open space is surplus to requirements and the development is therefore considered to be contrary to Policy RE1 (Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation) of the adopted East Devon Local Plan and the guidance of paragraph 74 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

The current planning application submitted by PegasusLife also 'incorporates the construction of dwellings on parts of the site currently used as an area of open space':

The Deputy CEO has put together a case supporting the building on public open space, as reported to Cabinet last year: 

6.18 The Council’s Open Space Study Review 2014 shows that Sidmouth has 1.75ha above the minimum open space standard for Parks and Recreation Grounds for a settlement of Sidmouth’s population. 
The Knowle parkland is included in the Open Space Study under the Parks and Recreation Grounds typology. 
Concerns have been raised that The Byes has been included within the calculation and if you were to remove it then there may be under provision. This was an issue raised when the planning application for the Knowle was considered in 2012/13. 
Following this, the Council undertook the Open Space Study Review 2014 which amongst other things specifically considered the designation of The Byes. Through this process, a large amount of The Byes that had previously been designated as Parks and Recreation Grounds was re-designated as Natural and Semi-Natural Greenspace to more accurately reflect its usage and management by the Sid Vale Association. This (along with other changes in the Review) significantly reduced the amount of Parks and Recreation Grounds from 7.33ha above the minimum standard to 1.75ha above the minimum standard. The remainder of The Byes was considered to be appropriately designated as Parks and Recreation Grounds. 
The Parks and Recreation Grounds figure for Sidmouth therefore now only includes the appropriate area of The Byes. Accordingly, should the 0.354ha subject to Policy RE1 be lost there would still be an excess of 1.396ha when judged against the assessment criteria.


Nevertheless, the District Council's planning committee (the DMC, or Development Management Cttee) of 1st March 2013 had made the status of any 'excess' very clear, in that they were 'not satisfied that the open space is surplus to requirements'.

In refusing the Outline Planning Application, the DMC stated that the development would encroach on public open space, which they 'therefore considered to be contrary to Policy RE1 (Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation) of the adopted East Devon Local Plan and the guidance of paragraph 74 of the National Planning Policy Framework'.

And this statement was made in 2013 when Sidmouth enjoyed 7.33ha above the minimum standard - well before the Open Space Study Review 2014 reduced this to 1.75ha.


The review of the Open Space in the District was completed in 2014 and became part of the updated Local Plan:

However, whilst reducing the amount of Parks & Recreation Ground in the Byes, there were two major failings:

1) Bizarrely, the Scouts' Field at Salcombe Regis was newly included: this clearly does not meet the definition of 'Parks & Recreation Grounds' in the OSS' own guidelines. Protests were made at the time - but were dismissed.

2) Whilst the SVA's own Margaret's  and Gilchrist Meadows were removed from the 'Parks & Recreation Grounds' typology, the 2.25ha of Sid Meadow, owned by the National Trust was not - and yet only four years previously, this piece of pastureland had been grazed by sheep, before being transformed into a community orchard and wildflower meadow by the Friends of the Byes group.

All of these points were made in public at the original 1st March meeting of the DMC: 

An oversupply of parkland in Sidmouth?

March 5, 2013 by sidmouthsid

Not true, as this speech from local resident Peter Whitfield points out. It was delivered at the Development Management Committee Meeting which rejected the Outline Planning Application for Knowle last Friday, 1st March.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

One of my many objections to this application is that you have been seriously misled by the Officer’s report. He claims that Sidmouth has more Parks & Recreation Grounds than it needs according to standards but admits there is some dispute about this without saying what this is.

The Planning Support Statement which the Report quotes says that there is a Standard of provision of 1ha/1000 of population of Parks & Recreation Grounds for urban areas. This is wrong. The Open Space Study which this document purports to be quoting says no such thing. You will recall that at your June meeting last year this committee voted to adopt that Study (commissioned from Bennet Leisure & Planning) as evidence in future applications and as policy in the emergent local plan. You adopted the whole document, not just selected portions of it. It suggests a minimum standard of 1ha/1000 for urban areas as minutes of your meeting record, but then goes on to qualify this by a whole series of caveats which insist that it should not be a one-size-fits-all standard. (The economies of Sidmouth, Honiton & Axminster vary widely and the need for both quantity and variety of open space varies accordingly as the OSS acknowledges.) (My 3 minutes do not allow me quote them all here but can give examples if questioned.)

The Report ignores these important qualifications and therefore draws the wrong conclusion that Sidmouth has more Parks and Recreation grounds than it “needs” so losing a bit of the Knowle parkland won’t matter! Never mind that it would also change the whole character of the area.

Parks & Recreation grounds ( one of fourteen types of open space identified in the OSS!) are carefully specified as “defined areas of green open space that have been formally laid out for public enjoyment. Typically they will include lawns, flower beds, paths, and occasionally facilities such as toilets or a food stand. (This includes public parks and gardens such as Connaught Gardens or The Knowle in Sidmouth, (as well as privately owned formal gardens that are open to the public such as Killerton Gardens in Broadclyst.”)

The officer’s claim that all 13+ha of the Byes fit this definition is wrong – (despite it being endorsed as he says by “professionals”.) He claims that, because they are “managed” they must fit. The specification does not mention “managed”: it specifies being “formally laid out” and “will include lawns & flower beds”, characteristics notable by their absence throughout the area generically referred to locally as The Byes.

More than half of the area shown on the Council’s own map as The Byes is in fact owned and managed by the SVA as a wild flower area with woodland & pond and 2.25ha of Sid Meadow within the Byes are owned by the National Trust who have said that they are managed as natural grassland and are in fact recorded on your Asset Database as Open Space. The OSS has separate standards of provision for areas such as these.

Putting these sections of The Byes into their correct designation as natural & semi-natural green space means that there is no surplus of P & R in Sidmouth – in fact there is less than even the minimum suggested standard..

In fact, the Area Manager of the National Trust had made their position quite clear well beforehand, on 7th January 2013:

You make a very valid point about the National Trust's meadow land adjacent to the Byes. This is indeed managed as natural grassland.
All the land has been declared inalienable under the National Trust Act and as such the Trust has a statutory duty under the National Trust Acts to promote the conservation of places of historic interest and natural beauty and ensure their permanent protection .
We would support the correct re-designation of this meadow.
We note your comment that this would have an impact on the amount of Parks and recreational land in Sidmouth as defined in the study.
Yours sincerely.
Consultancy Manager


The question of the exact status of the parkland at Knowle is critical.

It is referred to in Urban District Council minutes for July 1973, which include the report of a Finance Committee meeting on the 20th July. With reference to the "Adaptation of Knowle as Headquarters for the East Devon District Council", the minutes record that:

"The gardens and field, though technically held for the purposes of the Local Government Act 1933, have since acquisition been treated as open spaces to which the public have access. It will, moreover, be recalled that a principal reason for the acquisition of Knowle was to preserve the gardens and field as an amenity for the district. Members have suggested that this intention ought to be given legal effect. The best method would seem to be for the portion of the field and garden not required in connection with the above adaptations [of buildings required by the new District Council] to be appropriated for the purposes of Section 164 of the Public Health Act 1875 (which relates to the provision of public walks or pleasure grounds), by a simple resolution of the Council, and it would seem that no adjustment of the accounts would be necessary as both properties were financed out of general rate fund."

Ultimately, the District Council won the battle over public rights of way through Knowle, but the intentions of those who transferred the lands to the new East Devon District Council were clear.

Similarly, whilst the the application to create a Town Green from the Knowle grounds failed, there was considerable fallout: 

A spokesman for Knowle Residents’ Association said that householders were ‘naturally disappointed’ but the decision was not ‘entirely unexpected’.

The spokesman added, however, that something ‘very positive’ had come out of making the application. The inspector concluded that all the open land at Knowle is held by East Devon District Council as public open space,” he told the Herald. This means that the council will have to formally notify the public and consider any objections before any of it is sold to developers.”


The procedures by which the Upper Lawns of the Knowle grounds have become part of the PegasusLife application have been the focus of considerable attention.

How the southern border of land available for development moved has been seriously questioned:


March 13, 2015

Peter Whitfield’s speech, for SOS, warned Councillors at last night’s Special Combined Committee Meeting, precisely why “loss of parkland” cited by councillors themselves remains a major Knowle issue.

I will focus on the recent Appropriation and Disposal of Public Open Space notices, and especially on the incursion onto the upper terraces in front of the old hotel. This extension of the development boundary has never been debated by councillors despite it being raised on numerous occasions by the public. At the Council meeting of 24 July 2013 18 sets of minutes from 7 committees including four from the DMC were accepted. One of these was for their 18 July meeting which included the new development line. Those minutes were only put before council at the meeting so there is no chance that they could have been properly examined. Indeed an attempt at discussion was guillotined by Cllrs Cope and Bloxham proposing “ next business”.

It has been claimed that the revised drawing was approved by the Development Management Committee (DMC), and included in a consultation version of the draft local plan and at reference point 133 Strategy 26 there is indeed a marginal statement “Land allocation at Knowle for housing is shown to cover the footprint and the immediately abutting land of the council office”. The diagram illustrating this was in very small scale and very heavily shaded with brown diagonal lines which made it almost impossible to discern the building outline or to see how far into the abutting land the new boundary imposed.

On 20 August DMC met again to initiate final consultation on the Plan. On page 58 is the diagram with a comment “The site area at the current council office at Knowle has been amended to show a smaller area that reflects current development expectations.” This followed the refusal of the council’s own Outline Planning Application in March 2013, citing loss of parkland as a major issue.

The extant local plan at inset map 48 shows quite clearly protected land beginning at the building line of the old hotel. The draft local plan enlarging this area was thrown out by the Inspector and no new one has yet been out to consultation.

Moreover, there appears to be no written evidence to support the change in land allocation at Knowle for housing: 


10 Dec 2014

In a swingeing attack on EDDC Deputy Chief Executive and Head of the Relocation Project team, Richard Cohen, Sidmouth resident Richard Eley told last night’s Public Meeting, that he had no confidence in Mr Cohen because (we quote) he was:

“The man who moved the southern boundary of the Knowle to include the parkland without telling anybody and in contradiction to the specific instructions of the Development Management Committee (1). I was told this would not be investigated because the Inspector (2) would look at it, which he would not do because it was not within his remit. So this has never been investigated by anybody at the Knowle.”

“He did it without managing to record that process; without recording any conversation or without writing a single email, or keeping a single note or sending any kind of correspondence to any third party. Because I made a freedom of information request, and there was nothing there.”

“He did it unilaterally, on his own, secretly, and he didn’t tell a single soul, and I only found out by accident.”

And in another gross miscalculation, added Mr Eley, Richard Cohen had underestimated the size of the Knowle offices by 40%.

He concluded, “This is not the kind of person that I would trust to do these calculations. When he says, ‘It’s going to cost £15.5 million to refurbish (the Knowle)’. I would tell him, “That’s a load of rubbish!”

(1) editorial note: after the DMC had refused EDDC’s outline planning application for the Knowle in March 2013

(2) editorial note: at the public examination of the draft Local Plan, in February 2014.


Policy RE1 (Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation) in the draft Local Plan has now been replaced by the Policy RC1 in the adopted Local Plan:
Local Plan 2013-2031 - East Devon

RC1 - Retention of Land for Sport and Recreation: 

Proposals that would result in the loss of open space currently or previously used for recreation and/or sports uses, play areas or playing fields will not be permitted unless: 
1. Alternative provision of equivalent community benefit is made available and will be appropriately laid out by the applicant as a replacement. Or 
2. Sports and recreational facilities can best be retained and enhanced through the redevelopment of a small part of the site. Or 
3. Locally There is an excess of public open space, children's play areas or sports pitch provision in the area as the case may be.


Where we still have the question of whether or not 'there is an excess of public open space'. The Deputy CEO says Yes there is; the National Trust says No there isn't.

See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park'...
Futures Forum: Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park': part two
Futures Forum: Knowle: the Byes and when a 'meadow' is a 'park': part three
Futures Forum: Public Examination of the New East Devon Local Plan ..... ..... OPEN SPACE

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