Tim Ford, once a much-respected plumbing and electrical contactor in Sidmouth, is renewing his controversial application to build a business park in the AONB at Sidford. (18/1094/MOUT)
Incredulous locals wonder how it was possible for a council to allocate an ‘employment site’ in its local development plan that is on a flood plain, is a rich wildlife habitat, and whose main access would be a narrow street where two lorries can’t pass without mounting the pavement!
For the dominant Tory group on East Devon District Council it was easy!
First, they let landowners and developers decide where to build. In 2007 they asked East Devon Business Forum how much employment land the district would need over the next 25 years. EDBF was a lobby group which included the Carters of Greendale, the Stuarts of Hill Barton and Tim Ford of Sidmouth. Their answer was predictable: lots and lots!
Second, they put Chair of EDBF, Cllr Graham (‘I ain’t doin’ it for peanuts!’) Brown:
in charge of quietly asking landowners where they would like to build. Apparently, the proposal for a Sidford business park was first mooted at one of these confidential meetings in July 2010.
Third, in 2011 they elected Paul Diviani, founder member of EDBF, as leader. Under him the District Council became what many saw as a ‘Development Corporation’, the planning system became less about protecting the environment and more about encouraging building.
Fourth, they didn’t listen to the public or community groups whom they ignored or misrepresented. Sidmouth Chamber of commerce said the business park would be catastrophic for local businesses, Council minutes recorded the Chamber as supporting it!
Fifth, they whipped their large political majority to vote through the Sidford allocation. When hostile public reaction worried them just before the 2015 council elections they voted to ‘remove it’ from the Local Plan. Universal Rejoicing! But in 2016 the Inspector kept it in the Plan. Why? Because East Devon’s chief planning officer had not been instructed to give the Inspector reasons for the council’s change of mind!
Former EDDC Leader Diviani is now EDDC’s representative on the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan. In its confidential meetings he is helping to oversee a gigantic overspill project along the A3052 in the west end of the District where hundreds of acres of land are being earmarked for a massive expansion of business parks and thousands of new houses.
Indeed one such expansion was announced only this weekend near Cranbrook, where the developer is quoted as saying:
“The first, ‘Scenario 1’ is a response to existing market demand with the provision of a single large unit of around one million square feet (92,9000 sq.m.).
‘Scenario 2’ would see the site offer a multi-unit option, providing a range of sizes and configurations informed by ongoing market need.”
Which all makes the wretched Sidford application even less necessary!
Would you choose immediate A-road and motorway access to Exeter and the M5 or access down a country road where two medium-size vehicles cannot pass?