Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What next for Sidmouth: VGS AGM: the action group reports

At this evening's Vision Group AGM
Futures Forum: What next for Sidmouth: VGS AGM: Weds 18th June
several reports from the various 'action groups' will be presented:

Futures Forum

Over the course of the past twelve months, the Futures Forum has held several sessions
bringing the ‘key players’ in areas of public policy together and giving a wider audience the
opportunity to engage and discuss. In September, Cllr Mike Allen and planning officer Matt
Dickins were able to share ideas on ‘development for sustainability’ in the District; and in
November, the future of health in Sidmouth was explored between key professionals, lay
members and service users.

As well as providing a platform to enable exchange and debate, the Forum continues to
seek to build contacts on key issues: it has worked with Sustrans on cycling and hopes to
help the councils with taking forward the plans for routes out of Sidmouth.

The Futures Forum has also represented the Vision Group on the Save Our Sidmouth
campaign – contributing in trying to engage with the authorities on the major planning
issues facing the Sid Valley, notably, the relocation project from Knowle and the ongoing
drafting of the Local Plan. Indeed, the Vision Group has been involved in these areas
since its inception, having been set up in 2005 by the Town Council and SVA to “commend
the residents' vision to the Local Development Framework”.

The Forum, on behalf of the Vision Group, has been involved in attempts to create a town/
neighbourhood plan for Sidmouth. Based on its 2006 report, proposals were sent to the
councils in 2009. Whilst the Town Council felt that much of the report was then out of date,
it acknowledged that “two main issues are still relevant e.g. Port Royal Development and
the threat to Salcombe Cliffs” – and this year, the Forum has been involved in the Beach
Management Plan process, as well as being supportive of innovative ideas for developing
the eastern end of town.

Over the coming year, the Forum will work with its partners and with the authorities to bring
forward the town/neighbourhood planning process. It is clear that the Save Our Sidmouth
campaign would like to be proactive: “We also wish, in the longer term, to encourage and
assist Sidmouth Town Council to prepare a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’.”

The Futures Forum is also hoping to put on a weekend event looking at the theme of
‘resilience’, following on from the Vision Group’s very successful session this March on
climate change and sustainability. Many of these themes are covered on a regular and
topical basis on the Futures Forum blog: futuresforumvgs.blogspot.co.uk

We look forward to a positive and determined year ahead.

See also:
Futures Forum: The Vision Group for Sidmouth: a short history... and looking to the future...

Sidmouth Science Festival

• The Sidmouth Science Festival is now in its third year and establishing a strong
reputation in the area. It has been agreed to stage the event annually.

• Exeter University are now a key supporting partner and members of Exeter
University management have joined the Festival organising team.

• The 2014 Festival Week will continue with a range of Science Technology
Engineering and Maths themes but also coincides with the UK Earth Science Week
2014, which will strongly feature on two days. In addition Ada Lovelace Day,
promoting women in STEM subjects, falls on the Tuesday of the Festival Week.
Countess Lovelace is widely held to have been the first computer programmer over
170 years ago.

• The range of events is constantly expanding.

• Two TV personalities, Professors Iain Stewart and Bill McGuire have confirmed their

• This year more emphasis will be on making and creating. One aim is to create a
model car competition for local groups.

• The monthly Cafe Scientifique continues to be popular with growing numbers

See also:
Sidmouth Science Festival - Home
Sidmouth Science Festival - 2014


The last year has seen mixed progress on promotion and development of cycling routes in
Sidmouth and the immediate surrounding areas.

The VGS Futures Forum has continued to monitor developments and also attempted to
influence the decisions of DCC and Sustrans.  We have worked closely with the Otter Trail
Group, which is as keen as we are in promoting a new cycle route out of Sidmouth on the
old railway track between Sidmouth and Feniton via Ottery.

Last July Sustrans (in conjunction with DCC) appointed a new Sustrans Manager for
Devon, and we were delighted that his first major task was to carry out a detailed feasibility
study for the development of a cycle track between Sidmouth and the railhead at Feniton. 
This involved engineers and no doubt cost DCC and Sustrans a substantial amount of
money.  The report was due last December but was delayed and finally issued in May

The Sustrans Devon Manager agreed to speak to an FF meeting in early June, but
cancelled the meeting at very short notice after the FF Secretary had put in a great deal of
work in contacting a very wide range of groups, and individuals.  He was also scheduled to
speak to the Otter Trail Group.  This has been cancelled.  Two weeks ago he resigned
from Sustrans and gave only three weeks’ notice to interested parties in Devon.  The day
before he announced his resignation he addressed STC but did not say he had resigned
his position  We have now heard his position will not be filled in the foreseeable future.

The policies and actions of DCC with respect to cycling in Devon remain opaque, and
Councillor Stuart Hughes has not been forthcoming in sharing his views and actions with
us, although he has been asked to do so.  It came as a surprise in April to hear that two
"public consultations" took place in Sidbury and Sidford.  At least 3 DCC officers were
present and three consultants were present on the two days of the consultation.  Some
DCC Councillors were also present for part of each day. Although all cyclists and potential
cyclists would welcome an off road track between Sidbury and Sidford  there are the
problems of the allocation of scarce resources, the acquisition of land, and the so called
preferred route crosses a busy main road.  Neither DCC officers or their consultants were
realistic or well briefed, on the evidence of the two days of consultation.  Sustrans had not
been involved or consulted (as far as we know from the departing Devon Sustrans
Manager), and the route does not have a NCN number (National Cycle Network Number). 
The Sidmouth to Feniton route does have NCN number and has been surveyed on a
number of occasions during the last 12 years.

A similar situation of obfuscation, lack of clarity, and a failure to consult with the public and
cycling bodies applies to the use of 106 monies, presumably "given" to STC by EDDC.  As
a first step STC acted admirably and undertook a public survey to ascertain how the total
amount of 106 monies was to be used.  There was good support for some of the monies to
be used by cycling, but the public consultation did not specify details.  Some weeks after
this consultation, a plan was announced to connect Woolbrook with the Byes.  The plan
made no sense, and although the FF asked Cllr Hughes for details no clarification has been
forthcoming.  The authorship of the plan was not disclosed.

There is a role for VGS to continue to monitor cycling promotion, and the development of
off -road cycle routes in Sidmouth and the surrounding area.  Furthermore to bring
pressure on DCC, EDDC, STC and Sustrans to allocate a fair amount of their "cycling
Budgets" to Sidmouth.  In the past 10 years DCC (often in conjunction with Sustrans) has
spent millions on new cycling routes and the promotion of cycling in many parts of Devon. 

Sidmouth and surrounds have received virtually nothing.

See also:
Futures Forum: Cycling: Sidmouth to Feniton study: queries to be sent in by Weds 18th June
Futures Forum: Cycling: latest plans presented at Sidmouth Town Council: press report
Futures Forum: Cycling: "The first part of the Sidmouth to Feniton route"

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