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12 acre industrial site proposed for Sidford - my objection

Saturday, 17 September 2016 0 Comments by Claire

A planning application for a 12 acre business park in an area of outstanding natural beauty in Sidford has caused huge controversy.

The proposal first emerged when I was a local plan panel member in 2012. It suddenly appeared in the papers for our final meeting in the March. The proposal caused such uproar that it spawned the birth of Save Our Sidmouth, which ploughed much funding into fighting the allocation of this land in EDDC’s Local Plan.

Things looked up for a while after a full council meeting last year saw Stuart Hughes and Graham Troman manage to overturn the decision to allocate this land.  However, the planning inspector had other ideas and late last year, reinserted the contested piece of land back into the Local Plan.

A planning application was submitted by Fords earlier this year.

Last Monday evening (12 September) I attended a public meeting at Sidford Village Hall where the application was discussed. The hall was absolutely packed with angry residents who wanted the plans thrown out. There was talk of a boycott of Fords to express the deep unhappiness with a local business who wants to build an industrial estate in sensitive countryside adjacent to houses.

The meeting concluded that residents would fight the application tooth and nail.  I am familiar with the proposal as a former Local Plan panel member, however, it was a very useful meeting where I heard first hand from residents exactly how the application might have an impact on their communities. I have now submitted an objection, which is below.

Highways
The road through Sidbury is narrow, congested with parked cars and already experiences very high levels of traffic.  As Sidbury’s Devon County Councillor I have tried to address many complaints about the road, its narrowness, twistiness and the increasing level of traffic and heavy goods vehicles travelling through to the A30 at Honiton.

Sidbury Primary School has a very difficult parking situation, with many parents having to park on the opposite side of the road and dash across with their children. There are inadequate pavements around the school and any increase in traffic and HGVs could make things even more hazardous for parents and young children travelling to and from school.  A school governor at the public meeting at Sidford Village Hall on 12 September, expressed huge concern about the increase in traffic and the impact it will have on parents and children at school pick up and drop off times.

I question the assumption in the developer’s highways report that only 20 per cent of traffic generated by the business park would travel through Sidbury, with the remaining 80 per cent opting to go via Sidford crossroads.  I would have thought it was far more likely that a bigger percentage of the traffic would choose to travel to the nearest fast road – in this instance the A30 - via Sidbury. Much quicker than travelling to Exeter along the A3052.  I believe that the developers are vastly underestimating the impact of the traffic on Sidbury.

There are many old listed properties which line the roads in Sidbury, which could be damaged by the increase in HGVs along this road.

The NPPF states that a highways objection can be sustained if the traffic impact is severe. I agree with many Sidbury residents and local councillors, who believe that it would be.

The application should be refused on highways grounds alone.

Landscape impacts
I agree with the AONB team and Natural England both of which assert that the proposed development would have a significant adverse affect on the setting of the AONB. The team also states that the current building plans, despite being in outline do not comply with NPPF policies relating to development in AONBs.  It has the potential to set a precedent and so must be planned extremely carefully, which it is not.  The landscape architect also believes that the scheme would have significant adverse impacts on the surrounding sensitive countryside, with information on design missing from the application.  The landscape architect concludes that the application is unacceptable on landscape grounds.

Natural England recommends “substantial revision” on the grounds of visual intrusion.

I believe that the application should be refused on landscape grounds and poor design within an AONB.

The cycleway from Sidbury to Sidford
As the Devon County councillor for Sidbury this cycleway is a significant project that I am anxious to finalise.  Progress has been slow mainly due to matters outside Devon County Council’s control. I note the AONB team’s comments relating to the proposed cycleway as being disjointed, fully exposed to the road with the rural character of the route being removed.  The AONB team observe: “If approved, it would be completely at odds with the principle of providing an integrated and well connected and accessible development not to include a fully linked route at the outset of the development. Without this, at present, the proposal will not fully “deliver cycle and footway improvements which should aid sustainable travel in the area, not just the business park”; furthermore it could not be regarded as a “highly permeable and appealing walking and cycling environment”.

The application should be refused on the grounds of not providing an acceptable cycle route.

Flooding
The Environment Agency advises that new more stringent guidelines as set out in climate change documentation should be used as a material planning consideration for this application. Given that the fields are close to a major watercourse and the area is prone to regular flooding, I very much hope that EDDC will use these guidelines to assess the application.

Devon County Council flood and coastal risk officer has also recommended refusal on the grounds of insufficient information relating to water run-off. The application should be refused on these grounds.

It is clear that the evidential comments from residents and key consultees can only leave EDDC with no option but to refuse the application.

Pic. The area of outstanding natural beauty close to where the proposal is targeting.

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