Sidmouth ward councillor not told about advanced development plans

“A leading Sidmouth councillor has said she is ‘alarmed’ after illustrations as to how Sidmouth seafront could look as part of plans to redevelop the Port Royal area of the town have were revealed.

Consultants are carrying out a scoping study to assess the feasibility of redevelopment of the area on behalf of Sidmouth Town and East Devon District Councils who are the major landowners of the site.

Plans were put on show on Monday and Tuesday at consultation events at Kennaway House in Sidmouth and revealed that the seafront could get up to 30 flats that stand five storeys high.

But Cllr Cathy Gardner, who represents Sidmouth on East Devon District Council and is also the leader of the East Devon Alliance, said she was very surprised on Monday when she saw a five storey block of flats revealed on the consultation boards.

Cllr Gardner said: “We are concerned and I was alarmed at what I saw. At this early stage of the consultation, we expected to see a review of what the limitations of the site are and what would be possible.

“What we certainly did not expect to see what a five storey flats building included in the consultation board.

“I am alarmed that we are looking at five storey building within this area of the seafront. There will be a lot of discussion over the next month about this and I am sure we will get a lot of comments about what people want, but this is not what we expected.”

She said that everyone accepts that the Port Royal area of the town, which includes The Ham, the riverside, the car park, fishing compound, the public toilets, the Drill Hall, the sailing club and the lifeboat station, does need something doing to it, but said that it should be something more in keeping with the town.

She added although it is a consultation exercise, it had the feel of something that was fait accompli, particularly as questionnaires as part of the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan survey asks residents their views about Port Royal area of the town are currently out with residents to fill in.

She added: “I am told that feedback from this will be taken into account, but it does seem to be putting the cart before the horse.”

The consultation boards say: “The existing lifeboat station and sailing club need to have a waterfront location for operational reasons, but there are no obvious technical reasons that would prevent the lifeboat station, sailing club, Drill Hall and toilet block from being demolished with an alternative development provided on that part of the Study Area.”

Under potential development opportunities, the boards say: “The development could comprise a building of between 3 and 5 storeys. It could be a single building incorporating various uses including a new lifeboat station, a multifunction unit that could incorporate the sailing club, other water related clubs already operating, public toilets and wider community use. Space could also be created for a café and restaurant. These could occupy the ground floor and first floor of the building.

“Up to thirty residential apartments with potential to be of various sizes could form part of this development occupying the second, third and fourth floors.

The illustrations on this board are only intended to give an impression of the scale and size of a building on the site and how it might appear in relation to other buildings nearby. It is not a proposal for how the building will look

“Pedestrianisation ofthe Esplanade from its junction with Ham Lane running eastwards towards Salcombe Hill would create an opportunity for a vibrant, active frontage to the new development on the allocated site where people can use the space free of traffic whilst maintaining access for emergency vehicles, e.g. lifeboat.

“An access road from Ham Lane could be created to provide additional pedestrian access through the site along with access for service vehicles, access to sailing club storage and some water users.”

The Ham and East Street car parks have also been included in the scoping study area, but as they are within a high risk flood zone, further discussion will be required with both the Environment Agency and East Devon District Council planning department before any proposals can be taken forward.

Consultants will use the feedback to produce a set of recommendations that balance community expectations with what is achievable in the area.

These recommendations are expected to be considered by Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council later in the year.

You can fill in the survey here…”