Monday, 1 February 2016

Sidford business park: and Alexandria Rd business park and the Local Plan >>> so many questions and so few answers

There has been a lot of anger generated around the Inspector's decision to include the Sidford employment land in the Local Plan:
Futures Forum: East Devon Local Plan >>> Sidford business park to remain >>> "a huge disappointment"

The Herald carries a particularly damning letter:

Opinion: Don’t spoil jewel that is Sidmouth - or ancient village Sidbury

06:00 01 February 2016

‘Is nobody able to fight this disgusting decision?’

I live in Sidbury. Anyone who lives in this area knows how fast non-local traffic travels through this area.

A business park will attract even more traffic. I feel the plan to use the land for a business park is appalling. Does this [planning inspector] Anthony Thickett live any where in this part of Devon? Does [EDDC leader] Paul Diviani live here? No, of course not. Neither of these people seem to care that they are about to spoil the jewel that is Sidmouth or the ancient village of Sidbury. Is nobody able to fight this disgusting decision?

It makes me sad that these people can make choices that do not affect them, but are, in my view, happy to spoil the lives of hundreds of local people and the thousands of visitors that visit our towns and villages because they remain relatively unspoilt.

Carol Ireton, Sidbury

Opinion: Don’t spoil jewel that is Sidmouth - or ancient village Sidbury - News - Sidmouth Herald

More and more questions are being raised as to how we came to this.

Here is comment today from the East Devon Watch blog - followed by further comment from District Cllr Stuart Hughes:


1st February 2016

Letter in Sidmouth Herald below. Yes, Carol, LOTS of people, including your new, local Independent councillors have been and are trying desperately hard to get this ridiculous decision reversed. 

Unfortunately, the district council majority party councillors did not share this view. EDDC was supposed to offer the Inspector evidence to support the decision to remove it from the Local Plan. EDDC chose not to supply that evidence, which had been given to them in vast amounts. Perhaps you should ask Councillor Stuart Hughes why and how this happened as he was there at the time and seems to be unable to supply a satisfactory answer as to why this happened.

One thought on “Sidmouth Herald letter re Sidford Fields”

Stuart Hughes CC says:

1 Feb 2016 at 3:01pm

Perhaps you should like to tell me and other readers what further evidence I and Graham Troman provided at the Council meeting where we were successful in getting the Business Park removed?

According to the Inspector he had received all the evidence he required…… We now have to wait and see if a planning application is forthcoming because at that stage we can ensure that in depth traffic studies and evidence are forthcoming which will have to satisfy the County Council and its safety audits also that a flood alleviation scheme is implemented that the Environment Agency have already stated can be applied that will ensure that any development won’t have impact on Sidford or further down the Sid……This scheme would be very expensive to provide.

Sidmouth Herald letter re Sidford Fields | East Devon Watch
Councillor Hughes responds on Sidford Fields criticism | East Devon Watch

With further questions from the EDW blog:
Sidford business park | East Devon Watch 11 April 2015
Sidford Fields employment land: who knew what and when? | East Devon Watch 19 January 2016
Sidford Fields employment land | East Devon Watch 26 January 2016

And from yesterday:


31st January 2016

From a correspondent – views expressed are those of the correspondent:

Sidmouth Employment Land

Dspite a vote by full Council on 26 March to exclude the proposed new industrial site north of Sidford from the local plan, it remained listed in the Review as O41 at 5.97ha. The wording in the draft plan was for a site of “up to 5ha”. The table on page 154 showed 5.97ha as the area of the intended site.

It is now known that the Inspector was left to decide whether the Sidford site should stand. The case presented was that there is no proven need for it as there is ample scope on the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate.

The inclusion in the Local Plan of a “need to promote a new employment site on the northern edge of Sidmouth” is not, in my opinion, supported by any evidence of need over and above that available at far less cost and more suitable location at the Alexandria Road site which is not in the AONB. It should be rejected.

Recent history of Alexandria Road and Sidford Fields:

The Employment Land Review 2014 was sent to the planning inspector as supporting evidence for the revised Local Plan. On page 65 is the appraisal of the Alexandria Road Industrial Estate in Sidmouth. This appraisal is based solely on the Tyms Study(2011) with passing reference to the Atkins Report (2006). This evidence is years out of date and not a reflection of the current state of the area, particularly its description of the northern area presently accessed only via Pathworlands. But even the remark that “the southern area is occupied by builders merchants in an old railway premises” is couched in language designed to imply its unsuitability! In fact the yard is on the land of the former railway sidings so is flat and well suited to its use, as is the substantial old building now equipped as a store and a purpose built new brick building for stock and offices. The use of this appraisal will be very much criticised during the Public examination process.

The two most inaccurate comments are: “The northern area is being used for self storage shipping containers” and “The estate is made up of a number of plateaus and is quite densely developed. The majority of accommodation provided is relatively poor”.

Since those 2006/2011 reports the containers have been re-sited to a higher level secured area in a glen well out of sight from the rest of the estate (05/2722/FUL approved January 2006) so there is now also available a large empty area, part used just for the casual parking of assorted private vehicles and the dumping of rubbish.

In addition, the area formerly occupied by a gas holder is now available for use after the ground has been de-toxified and was purchased in 2013 by the majority owner of the rest of the site – a large mainly empty area presently being part used for a log business, storage of palletts and parking for Voluntary Service vehicles. An application is currently awaiting decision for a Certificate of Lawfulness for change of use to Business uses (14/1866/CPE).

Since Tyms, one of the site businesses, Sidmouth Tyres and Exhausts who own the freehold of their part of the site, has invested heavily in two large new buildings fully equipped with vehicle lifts (6!) and a rolling road for MoT testing after demolishing an old office and one of the old workshops. EDDC are fully aware of these developments as it was they who granted two separate planning applications (09/1377/FUL & 12/1978/FUL) for their construction. Yet they continue to present outdated information.

Many of the older buildings in the northern section are “relatively poor” as stated. But that is largely because the current owners have not invested in them in the same way, probably in anticipation of being the sponsors of a proposed new industrial estate at Sidford and a recent (2012) approach by a major retailer to buy part of the site which has subsequently been discontinued.

The site as it is today is far from being “densely developed” – it has masses of underused space which with suitable modest investment could meet the needs of growing or start-up businesses for Sidmouth for many years to come, especially now that there is a commitment to provide improved access directly from the main road.

It is surprising that EDDC officers appear not to have not troubled to check the validity of evidence they present to the Inspector but continued to rely on outdated reports – especially as they had a record of discarding these two particular reports in the past because they did not accord with the wishes of certain Councillors involved in the inordinately long period of preparation of the Local Plan.

Questions about Sidford Business Park

1. Did Mr Thickett actually visit Alexandria Ind estate or did he rely solely on the evidence submitted by EDDC in the Employment Land Review 2014 page 65? The evidence above shows that this was outdated and inaccurate. Was it considered?

2. On what criteria did Mr Thickett rule that Alexandria Industrial Estate was “unsuitable”?

3. EDDC has said that Mr Thickett “considered all the options and concludes Sidford is the best of a bad bunch.” The 5 additional options listed in the ELR 2014 in addition to Sidford were all remote from Sidmouth and totalled 7.29ha. But these are all existing sites already in use for employment so would not have figured in Mr Thickett’s consideration of “all the options” for additional employment land to serve the needs of the Sidmouth area. The only new site he was offered was Sidford.

Many many questions, no answers.

Sidford Fields – questions, questions, questions | East Devon Watch

And the Save Our Sidmouth blog also had a few questions, courtesy of another District Councillor:

Sidford employment land scandal will not go away, despite adoption of Local Plan

January 29, 2016 by sidmouthsid 2 Comments

EDDC’s Local Plan was adopted last night, with acceptance that it has many flaws (the Inspector had demanded around 200 ‘main modifications’).
The seemingly irregular circumstances surrounding the insertion into the Local Plan of the 5 hectare employment land on an AONB part-floodplain at Sidford, will now pass to Scrutiny.

Before the vote last night on the adoption of EDDC’s Local Plan, Cllr Marianne Rixson (EDA Ind, Sidmouth/Sidford) asked the following questions, which remain unanswered:

‘I would describe the whole shambolic process leading to the inclusion of Sidford employment land as the Hokey Cokey.

First it was in, then it was out, then it was in because it was never really out at all, was it? Why do I say this? Because no mitigating evidence was submitted at the time the final draft was submitted, so the inspector had no option but to make his decision on the evidence before him. At last week’s DMC meeting, Ed Freeman admitted that he had NOT been instructed to submit further evidence.

Now what we all need to know is:

1. Who failed to instruct Ed Freeman to add mitigating evidence for the withdrawal of the Sidford site?
2. Why were Members not advised that supporting evidence was vital if the late stage vote to delete the Sidford site was to be even considered by the Inspector?
3. Did Cllr Hughes know that he had to submit additional evidence. If not, why not?

The Council changed their mind, and voted for the deletion of the Sidford site for good reason – not least, because this particular employment land contradicts their new Local Plan’s policy of reducing in-commuting.

My question to the Leader on his Hokey Cokey Sidford plan is ….

– Who failed to instruct officers?
– Who failed to inform Members (including Cllr Hughes) and
– WHY were they not informed?’


Elizabeth Hunt
January 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Shared on Facebook with a very long comment about the detrimental effects associated with locating this very large area on our doorstep. Surely, placing this site on the road going into Exeter would be better for everyone. More, regular public transport to get there; easy for larger vehicle access through traffic light control; will not spoil the landscape and can be placed on more level land that won’t cause flooding.

February 1, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Thank you very much, Elizabeth, for sharing your comments on Facebook.
And please note, the fundamental question of whether a business park of this scale is needed, will become clear when evidence has been gathered for the Sidmouth Neighbourhood Plan. (NP) . A NP is now in preparation, thanks to the new composition of the Town Council since the May 2015 elections.
But how exactly the Sidford site ever got into the Local Plan in the first place, will no doubt remain under scrutiny.

For your information, Scrutiny meetings, held at Knowle, Sidmouth, are listed on the EDDC website, and are open to the public, who are permitted to ask questions at the beginning of the meeting, about items on the agenda. Simply register your name and topic of the question (no more than 3-minutes in length), on arrival at the Council Chamber.

Sidford employment land scandal will not go away, despite adoption of Local Plan | Save Our Sidmouth

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