Sidford business park: AONB carbuncle

Last night’s meeting of Sidmouth Town Council Planning Committee unanimously recommended refusal of Fords’ revised application to build a business park on the AONB in Sidford, and condemned it as a “cosmetic attempt” to disguise a “carbuncle” which was totally unacceptable to the people of the Sid Valley.

St Peter’s Hall was crowded with members of the public, and many were scathing in their comments on the applicant’s determination to build a development that the inadequate local road system could not cope with.

The recent report from Devon County Highways Officer which found the application acceptable,was met with incredulity. “Not worth the paper it was written on” said one resident because it totally failed to address the traffic bottle-neck in School Street. Another challenged the objectivity of the Traffic Assessment carried out by the applicant’s consultants, and demanded an independent report.

Councillors vied with each other to condemn the applicant’s, “gross error of judgement” in proposing excessively large buildings up to 15 metres high. Chair Cllr Ian Barlow said they would be higher than other buildings in the Valley with the exception of Sidford parish church, and were more appropriate for a distribution centre rather than small units suitable for local businesses. According to Cllr Kelvin Dent it was the “wrong development in the wrong place”.

EDDC Councillor Marianne Rixson claimed revised information about the distribution of bats as misleading, pointing out that, horseshoe bats had been recorded more widely on the site than the applicant’s survey suggested.

Landowner Sir John Cave was criticised for withdrawing his offer of land for a cycle track to be funded by Devon County, so that Fords could then offer to include it in the development as a crude “inducement” for the application to be approved.

While repeating their united opposition to the proposed development, town councillors felt it necessary to recommend strong conditions to be applied if EDDC were to approve the application. They proposed a maximum ridge height of 7 metres, and a maximum area of 100 square metres for any building; there should be no flat roofs; no retail should be allowed. The cycle track should be completed first, and strict precautions should be taken to mitigate noise and light pollution.

Finally several councillors urged residents to mobilise to “defend their homes”, and a meeting of residents is planned on

Monday 12 September at 7.15 p.m.

in Sidford Social Hall, Byes Lane. Doors open at 6.30pm.