“A £750,000 scheme to protect hundreds of town-centre homes and businesses from flooding looks set to be delayed until the building of a controversial 113-home retirement community at Knowle is completed.
The news comes after the district council agreed with developers PegasusLife to allow the use of the lower car park and nearby flower meadow for storage space during construction. It is not yet clear on what basis the council’s car park is being used.
The use of the lower car park would mean phase two of the £759,000 Sidmouth Surface Water Improvement Scheme will have to be redrawn as the proposed lagoon feature and above ground storage area are located adjacent to the car park.
Devon county councillor Stuart Hughes said officers will meet the district council on Thursday (November 29) to discuss options at the site.
Cllr Hughes said: “After all the work that’s gone into getting the funding for the scheme, it will be delayed.
“East Devon District Council [EDDC] has agreed to the storage equipment of PegasusLife for their construction and will not allow county to use this area until after construction is complete.
“Hopefully the officers will find out at the meeting which option they prefer and whether we can achieve the level of flood improvements we desire.
“I do hope that we can find an alternative for the lagoon SUDS system so that the 300 properties and businesses in the town will be protected from future flood events.”
An EDDC spokeswoman said the authority is in discussion with the partners involved.
In January, PegasusLife won an appeal to turn EDDC’s headquarters at Knowle into a large scale 113-home retirement community after its application was rejected in December 2016.
Campaigner Ed Dolphin has slammed the use of the car park as a ‘slap in the face’ and claims it is likely to be a blow to Sidmouth’s economy as it might affect the park and walk service into town.
Mr Dolphin said: “Many people objected to the Knowle development as a blight on the green corridor as visitors entered the town. This move will bring it to the forefront, right down to the roadside.
“Even worse, it seems that the developers need even more space and so they are to be given the flower meadow next to the car park as well, the one that was mown by mistake in the summer and which EDDC promised to care for in the future. The meadow is already waterlogged for the winter and storing building materials and machinery on it will probably ruin it for years.
“I do not see why PegasusLife need this extra space, their site has three large car park areas that could be used for storage at various times in the development.”
He called the park and walk car park in Station Road a ‘valuable asset’ as it reduced the strain on the town centre, was popular in the winter and boosted the town’s independent traders.
PegasusLife has been approached for a comment.”