Knowle housing and Sidford site stay in Local Plan as CEO savaged

25 Jul

A majority of EDDC councillors agreed at last night’s full council meeting to approve the latest version of the Local Plan.

They rejected a series of cogent arguments to revise the plan to build houses at the Knowle and remove the proposed 12-acre business park at Sidford.

The current plans showing the area to be sold to developers at the Knowle were condemned as “misleading”. by Sidmouth councillors Peter Sullivan and Stuart Hughes.

They were concerned that the footprint of the present buildings had been extended to include a large area of lawn which was clearly “recreational land”. There was a real danger that the Development Management Committee which had approved the Local Plan were “misinformed” by officers.

The Sidford site triggered the most heated debate.

Cllr Graham Troman (Sidmouth) claimed there was “no justification” for an out-of-town business park which would damage the vibrancy of Sidmouth town centre. He was shocked by the dubious way in which this proposal had been inserted in the Local Plan without any proper discussion.

Cllr Christine Drew (Sidmouth) said that EDDC had ignored overwhelming public opposition to the site, and she was very suspicious of the recent “minor amendment” to add retail to the type of businesses proposed.

Stuart Hughes argued that adequate employment land could be provided for Sidmouth by realising the potential of the Alexandria Road site, and new access could be provided for half the cost of the £1 million pounds estimated by EDDC planners. And funding might be available for this from a variety of sources.

He also highlighted the acute flood risk at the Sidford site which was on a flood plain. The Council’s argument that the problem could be solved by a SUDS system was weak: a similar system at Woolbrook failed during recent flooding. He feared the impact that building at Sidford would have on flooding downstream.

As county councillor responsible for roads, he stressed the inadequacy of the main road which would serve the site which was subject to regular flooding.

Cllr Mike Allen (Honiton), former chair of the Local Plan Panel made a swingeing attack on the Sidford allocation.

It was “not compliant” with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which gave “great weight” to the protection of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

There was no evidence that it was needed by Sidmouth. It would require people to commute into the town to work. It was “against the public interest”.

He was also suspicious of how the Built Up Area Boundary had been extended to the north of Sidford by officers without consultation.

It would be straightforward to remove the Sidford allocation from the Local Plan: failure to do so would risk the rejection of the whole plan by the Inspector. He seconded Cllr Troman’s motion that it should be deleted.

Chief Executive Mark Williams then advised that this would not be possible legally as it was not a minor amendment.

This provoked an extraordinary attack on Mr Williams by Cllr Allen. His advice was a “biased” view which showed ignorance of the NPPF. He did not have a “grip” on the legal situation, and had not taken account of all the legal considerations.
Tory Whip, Phil Twiss, jumped up to defend the CEO who must be right “because he is a solicitor” and Cllr Allen wasn’t!

Allen, who, in his day job is the Officer Responsible for Regeneration at South Somerset District Council, calmly replied that he had a considerable legal authority on his side – the NPPF.

A rather shell-shocked Council then proceeded to vote on the motion to delete Sidford. It was rejected.

The Tory majority – immune to argument- went on to approve all the “minor amendments” to the Local Plan which approves the Knowle and Sidford proposals.

One Response to “Knowle housing and Sidford site stay in Local Plan as CEO savaged”

  1. Media Mandy July 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Did Councillor Allen bring the council into disrepute? Will we be seeing him before the Standards Board for his comment. What if an independent councillor had made the remark?

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