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Knowle relocation project: BREAKING NEWS >> >>> Information Commissioner tells East Devon District Council to publish documentation

Details just posted on .

EDDC has of course already clashed with the Information Commissioner. In 2015 EDDC not only lost its Appeal to keep certain Knowle documents secret, but was severely criticised for “at times discourteous and unhelpful” conduct.

The ‘SOS Press Release on Tribunal decision’,  dated 5th May 2015,  puts today’s breaking news into context. Here it is:

In 2013, Jeremy Woodward, (SOS, (Save Our Sidmouth)), asked East Devon District Council, (EDDC), to release reports prepared by their Project Manager relating to the Relocation of their Knowle Offices. The reports contained information about the costs, programme and background to EDDC’s “ambition” to relocate their offices.
EDDC refused our request, , saying that this information was confidential. We appealed to the Information Commissioner, who ruled in our favour, saying that as the reports were prepared by an external consultant they should be released.
EDDC appealed against this decision, and the case went to a legal Tribunal which heard oral evidence in August 2014. After much further correspondence from EDDC , the Judge leading the Tribunal, in a Decision letter dated 5th May has ruled in our favour, saying that the Information Commissioner was correct in his interpretation and that information must be released. He is still waiting though for further information from EDDC so that he may make a judgement on the full extent of the disclosures.
In his judgement the Judge, B Kennedy QC says, “This Tribunal takes the unusual and unfortunate step of commenting on the conduct of the appeal itself. We are unanimous in our view that this appeal has taken much longer than it should have done and the reason for this seems to be the failure on the part of the public authority, the appellant, to address itself with sufficient attention to the details of what information and documents it was supplying to the Commissioner and ultimately also to the Tribunal….Correspondence on behalf of the Council, rather than ensuring the Tribunal was assisted in its function, was at times discourteous and unhelpful…… We believe this appeal could and should have been dealt with completely at the hearing in August 2014 and the decision promulgated six months ago had the Council discharged its responsibilities properly.”
EDDC has spent over £11,000 of public money in fighting this case, money which could have been spent on much more worthwhile and productive activities.
Throughout our campaign against the relocation of the Knowle we have continually been battling against EDDC errors, deliberate obfuscations and a refusal to examine rational options. A decision to confirm the relocation was made by the Council in late March 2015, based on what we still believe are very doubtful foundations.
We fully endorse the Judge’s conclusions on EDDC’s behaviour not only related to this particular event. We believe that EDDC personnel involved should be considering their positions.
Richard Thurlow, Chair, Save our Sidmouth


Pegasus Life plans for Knowle..the big picture

As reported in today’s Sidmouth Herald, this week’s helium-balloon test and photos taken from points like Alma Bridge revealed the impact of the PegasusLife development not only on the public park and local residents but also far afield across Sidmouth.  EDDC Ward Member for Sidmouth,  Cllr Cathy Gardner (East Devon Alliance) has argued that the planned Pegasus Life development would be visible from both the areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) flanking Sidmouth to the east and west. And Mike Temple, a Sidmouth resident for over 30 years, emphasises that  “The visual impact from far afield will be worse than you might imagine, because many of the trees screening the existing buildings on the west side of the development will be cut down.” ‘
The following photos were taken on Monday 10 October, when a group of residents flew a (smiley) helium balloon at the height of proposed buildings on the Knowle terraces. dsc01381p1040708

To show the planned building heights and massing in the context of the local scenery, views were also taken looking towards the site from across the valley. They  illustrate how the present Knowle buildings sit low on the landscape.  In contrast, the replacement buildings planned by the developers would be highly intrusive and very visible from those same viewpoints, changing the townscape from several angles.

Knowle now, viewed from  Beatlands Road

Knowle after planned development

Using the balloons as markers and the streetscene document from the Pegasus Life planning application, below is an approximate view of the proposed development as seen from by Alma Bridge overlaid on the existing building.




EDDC claims Sidford employment site will still be developed….Are their claims watertight?

In today’s Sidmouth Herald, Cllr Phil Twiss (Con), states that reasons for refusal for the business park planning application are based on “detailed concerns” that “can all be overcome”.

Looking closely at the Highways report from Devon County Council, comments from EDDC local Ward members, the Sid Vale Association, Natural England, and the flood of others who wrote objections in the public consultation, Cllr Twiss’s opinion seems overly lightweight. The consultees’ and individuals’ comments, most solidly based on planning grounds, are registered on the EDDC website, under Planning Application ref 16/0669/MOUT.

Councillor Twiss was responding to a press release from the East Devon Alliance, copied below for your information:

‘The EDDC statement to the Sidmouth Herald (30th September 2016) claims the Sidford site will still be developed, because it is in the Local Plan. This is not necessarily the case, says Chair of East Devon Alliance (EDA), Marianne Rixson, who is also an EDDC Ward Member for Sidford-Sidmouth. She says “EDDC’s press office statement is inappropriate. It’s not EDDC’s land, and any application has to be measured against policy. Most importantly, the outcome of future planning applications should not be predetermined. Decisions on planning applications are made by the Development Management Committee (DMC), who must judge individual planning applications on Planning Matters (i.e. whether an application fits EDDC strategy and policy, e.g. on in-commuting). The Local Plan is only one aspect.”

The EDDC officer’s report on why Tim Ford’s planning application has just been refused, seems to corroborate Cllr Rixson’s point. It makes a clear distinction between a local plan allocation and a planning permission. EDDC’s statement apparently confuses the two things.

A Local Plan is not set in stone. It can adapt to ‘material changes’, such as the dramatic re-assessment of Highways problems, in Devon County Council’s late but welcome final report on this planning application (ref 16/0669/MOUT, Two Bridges Road, Sidford on the EDDC website). For those familiar with the narrow roads, rat runs, and frequent traffic chaos in the area, it makes interesting reading.’

Note from SOS: A video of traffic chaos on the access road at Sidbury can be seen on the Facebook page (right-hand column), Say No to Sidford Business Park, which was set up by Sid Valley Residents.The page details serious problems with the narrow access road from Sidford Cross (School Street), and the rat runs in Frys Lane and the significantly named Brook Road.