‘Levels of Scrutiny and Accountability of those employed and Represented to Stand Up for Sidmouth’.

(Letter from last week’s Sidmouth Herald)

The Sidmouth Jazz and Blues Festival planned for 2022: 

I read with interest in last week’s Sidmouth Herald that the proposed Sidmouth Jazz and Blues Festival for 2022 will not take place on The Ham, or in Connaught Gardens, and will only take place in Blackmore Gardens if monies can be raised to fund it. The Parish Church is hosting events. 

The Festival was ill-conceived and ill-thought through. It was attempted to be pushed through by Sidmouth Town Council. 

Much upset and dismay was caused by Sidmouth Town Council in relation to the Event taking place on The Ham. This was compounded by the actions of the EDDC Planning Department and EDDC Planning Committee Councillors. 

The Sidmouth Town Clerk and Leader of Sidmouth Town Council told the Festival Organiser that Plans for the use of The Ham and the Festival were ‘agreed, done and dusted’, before they were. 

Local residents were told that the Festival was agreed, before it was, and that there was therefore no point in objecting to it taking place. 

There was also the expectation that a late-night lounge Music and drinking Event would take place on The Ham, until 2.30am, each night, during the proposed Festival, in a residential area. 

A full meeting of Sidmouth Town Councillors giving them the opportunity to consult, consider, understand, debate or decide upon any proposals, at this point, had not taken place. 

Local residents highlighted serious concerns raised by the Festival Plans: the arrangements made, the numbers involved, safety and accessibility for Sidmouth residents and proposed attendees. 

These included 2,250 people attending the afternoon or evening Events and the impact on The Ham area. That Sidmouth residents and visitors would be denied access for 14 days to The Ham pathway and cycleway whilst the Festival was set up and taken down on The Ham, funnelled onto a small unsafe pathway and narrow road to access the Town and Esplanade, with these concerns intensified with the increased Festival attendees and traffic. 

The Festival Organiser with the support of Sidmouth Town Council presented their Application to the EDDC Planning Committee, as part of the formal process for the Festival taking place. 

Arrangements for making a Formal Objection were not straightforward with the EDDC Planning Department. 

This was another opportunity for the EDDC Planning Committee to externally scrutinise the concerns raised, and for the Plans to be fully reappraised by the Festival Organiser and Sidmouth Town Council. 

The EDDC Planning Committee Councillors, at the Objections Committee Hearing, gave full approval to the Festival Plans supported by Sidmouth Town Council. 

This was on the basis of the provision of ‘no information, no Consultation, no Consultation of Statutory Bodies, no risk and safety assessment’ and on ‘promises’ made by the Festivals representative, and the assurance that they would act in the best interests of Sidmouth. 

Sidmouth Town Councillors and Sidmouth EDDC Councillors (except one) provided no support and made no intervention on behalf of the ill-conceived and ill-thought through proposal, causing great upset and dismay. 

There had been no consultation, involvement or consideration of local residents, or Sidmouth townsfolk by Sidmouth Town Council, EDDC or their Councillors. Concerns exist about the role of scrutiny and accountability exercised by Councillors. 

For many, the case is strengthened for major events to take place out of Town. 

It heightens longstanding and ongoing concerns about the lack of consultation with, and consideration of local residents by Sidmouth Town Council, (except one) Sidmouth Town Councillors, and Sidmouth EDDC Councillors. 

Sidmouth Town Councillors and EDDC Councillors for Sidmouth need to actively stand up for Sidmouth, and its residents, and be seen to do so. 

Stephen Pemberton,