Report on Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry

Owl says: an excellent summary – but particularly pay attention to one interesting point in it:

QUOTE: …it transpires that after their 2016 application was refused by the District Council the appellants representatives met with the Council’s Chief Executive where he encouraged them to appeal the decision. UNQUOTE

Since when did the CEO give planning advice to appelants – and who (if anyone) was with him at that meeting. And to whom, who, if anyone did he/they subsequently disclose it?

“Apologies for this lengthy Update but we wanted to provide the full flavour of the Planning Inquiry.

As we are sure you all are aware last week there was the Planning Inquiry into the appeal lodged by Tim and Mike Ford, trading as OG Holdings Retirement Benefits Scheme, into the planning application to build a Business Park in Sidford that was refused by East Devon District Council at the end of last year. The Inquiry was held in public in front of a Planning Inspector.

The District Council was represented by a very competent barrister and had one of its planning officers and a highways officer from Devon County Council as their witnesses. On the other side, the Fords, known throughout the Inquiry as the appellants, were represented by a QC and had a plethora of witnesses.

Four representatives from this Campaign were present continuously at the Inquiry from the very moment when it commenced and over three days until the moment that it concluded. Indeed, three of the Campaign’s representatives gave evidence to the Inquiry, were cross examined by the appellants’ QC and were able to direct questions to be put to witnesses, as well as participating in several “round table” discussions on specific issues related to the matters under consideration.

The three Campaign representatives who gave evidence were District Councillor Marianne Rixson, Keith Hudson and John Loudoun. There were also three other witnesses, all speaking against the proposed Business Park. These were – Town Councillor Jeff Turner, County Councillor Stuart Hughes and Sidford resident Jackie Powell. In reality, and for all other appearances, this Campaign’s representatives were treated as, and able to participate as, full participants alongside the Council and the appellants.

At all stages of the Inquiry it was pleasing to have a number of members of the public in attendance for what on a number of occasions must have been a rather dry affair, particularly when legal arguments were being exchanged and technical data argued over.

The bulk of all of the evidence and legal arguments centred primarily, as one would expect, around the issue of the suitability and safety of the highway (the A375 through Sidford and Sidbury) as this had been the grounds upon which the District Council had refused the latest planning application. Its worth recalling that for the appellants the planning application which was the subject of this Inquiry was the latest on for that site, with the first one being back in 2012, whilst the Fords submitted their first in 2016, which as we know was refused in the same year.

On the final day of the Inquiry this Campaign’s representatives were able to make strong interventions on what could become an important set of issues. As in any such Inquiry the Inspector, whilst they have all the parties together, go through what planning conditions would apply should the Inspector uphold the appeal. None of this is meant to signify that the Inspector has made a decision one way or another, but rather makes good use of everyone’s time.

We were able to put arguments on behalf of local residents for some of the main planning conditions. These conditions include important matters such as the days and hours when noisy machinery could be operated, the days and times when deliveries or collections could be made to businesses using the Business Park, having an agreed site lighting scheme which would include the use of illuminated advertising, the days and times of when the construction can take place and when construction vehicles can access the site.

Both parties agreed that if the site becomes operational there will be provision made at it for a cycle/footpath through it. This would link to the existing cycle/footpath that goes from Two Bridges Road down to the Byes and is meant to be an additional link to join through to the centre of Sidbury. The only problem here is that the County Council appears to have made no progress in developing the route into Sidbury.

This Campaign argued that the appellants, if successful at the appeal, should agree to fund the full cost of the cycle/footpath from Sidford to Sidbury and that such a condition should remain for the next 10 years. The appellants, not unsurprisingly, did not accept that this should be a condition that either legally or voluntarily should be applied!
We were very pleased to hear from the Inspector that the day before the Inquiry started, he had visited the site, as well as key areas within Sidford and Sidbury.

At the end of the Inquiry the Inspector invited both parties and this Campaign to identify sites that we wanted him to revisit. We are pleased that our proposed locations were accepted by the appellants representatives.
During the Inquiry we were able to persuade the Inspector to pay five videos that we had submitted as part of our evidence. These videos, we argued illustratively show the effects on the A375 in both Sidford and Sidbury of traffic problems given the current level of traffic, and we argued that with the additional traffic that would be generated by the Business Park this would only get worse. Links to each of these videos are set out at the end of this Update.

Interestingly, three new pieces of information came from evidence provided on behalf of the appellants.

The first is that the appellants argued that the planning application as it currently stands is the least that would make the site financially viable for them. In other words, if the appeal is lost then there is no point in the appellants submitting another application as it wouldn’t make them enough money.

Secondly, it transpires that after their 2016 application was refused by the District Council the appellants representatives met with the Council’s Chief Executive where he encouraged them to appeal the decision.

The third was that even if the appeal is successful and the appellants are able to build the Business Park, they would not be intending to build a phase two development in the neighbouring field as was expected.
The documents that both parties, this Campaign and members of the public have submitted to the Inquiry, and which the Inspector assured us he has diligently all read are available via this link –

https://planningapps.eastdevon.gov.uk/Planning/lg/dialog.page?Param=lg.Planning&org.apache.shale.dialog.DIALOG_NAME=gfplanningsearch&SDescription=18/1094/MOUT&viewdocs=true

One thought on “Report on Sidford Business Park Planning Inquiry

  1. Pingback: Sidford Business Park: call for Independent Inquiry into EDDC CEO’s actions | East Devon Watch

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