With approx 4,000 people in the crowd, not everyone could hear the opening speech by Robert Crick of SOS. So here it is:
Good morning neighbours. Thank you for coming here – we are all in this together.
Some people say that we are bananas. BANANA Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. Well, that is NOT what this campaign is about.
In 2005 the Town Council, Sid Vale Association, Chamber of Commerce, Hospitality Association and others set up the Vision Group for Sidmouth to consult the community on the future of the valley. The District Council has consistently ignored and sneered at all community attempts to engage with them over the past seven years, despite a wealth of creative positive ideas.
We want development for local human need, rather than for corporate greed. We are passionate about housing for our young workers, training for our local youth, healthy local businesses and a long-term strategy for jobs.
The previous Leader of EDDC told us her vision: the council was “desperate to sell to the highest bidder” this very site, which was given to the people of Sidmouth one hundred and sixteen years ago. Similar asset stripping has been taking place in Exmouth and all across the District.
She was voted out of office and replaced by an independent councillor, Claire Wright, of Communities Before Development. People power works.
Some in the Council are too stupid to see the vast difference between Communities Before Development and Communities Against Development. Well done Claire and other independents who have been subjected to persistent bullying in the Council Chamber.
Let us also pay tribute to the many Conservative Councillors across the District who are refusing the party whip. The current Leader has been found to be mis-leading. He claimed David Cameron has endorsed their plans (not confirmed by 10 Downing Street). He has claimed the jobs of the future for East Devon are office jobs. There is no evidence that call centres are needed in rural Devon.
60 years ago my dad’s uncle was chair of Sidmouth Urban District Council. Brigadier Crick wanted to preserve and extend our public assets to keep this place tranquil and beautiful, not to sell them off to the highest bidder. The current town council chair, Stuart Hughes, has shown magnificent leadership. He is flabbergasted at the District Council’s misleading claims. He has sent to this rally a personal message of support.
Councillor Graham Troman is another local Conservative who has shown moral courage in getting an investigation into those members of East Devon cabinet, who have been at the same time members of a lobby group of big businesses and landowners making substantial profits out of changes in land use. They have been forced to apologise publicly for failing over many years to declare their conflict of interest.
These are the people who are also responsible by law for preserving the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The EDDC leader has said that sheer weight of numbers will not change his mind. We are here to assert that Democracy is preferable to Dictatorship. Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth, even in East Devon.
Our numbers are impressive. Our support comes from across the political spectrum. We also have legal arguments, professional opinions, and statistical evidence to argue rationally for genuine local need in housing, jobs, health and well-being.
And we are winning the argument. Our reticent MP has finally capitulated to the bombardment of demands for him to call in the dubious plans for the Knowle. EDDC leaders have twice postponed the publication of their revised Local Development Plan. They have also, in an unprecedented move, revised their Outline Planning Application – to themselves. And today they have at last agreed to engage with the people they represent.
The media inform us that when we get to EDDC HQ we will be invited in for tea and biscuits. We have a long list of questions requiring clarification by our District Council. Let us now march to the Knowle for a frank and open discussion. There may not be enough tea and biscuits to go round.
CLOSING RALLY AT THE KNOWLE
This is a magnificent turnout. Exmouth, Ottery, Seaton, Feniton, Farringdon, Tipton, Budleigh, Branscombe, Sidbury, Sidford WI, Sidmouth Youth Council, The Green Party, Churches Together… we are all here to say that this is wrong.
The District Council Leader says he wants to hear what we think.
Do we want an industrial estate on the Sidford and Sidbury flood plain? NO!
Do we want a megastore in our parish sucking the life out of our town centre? NO!
Do we want to replace this people’s park with second homes and investment properties? NO!
Do we want all employment land in our towns and villages handed over to speculative builders? NO!
Do we want the seafront in our historic town turned into a pile of rubble and then a high rise building blocking access to the sea? NO!
Do the people of East Devon want to preserve all of our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty? YES!
Do we want the Sid Valley to provide jobs and homes for our children and grandchildren? YES!
Do we want training and apprenticeship schemes developed in East Devon? YES!
Do we want local food security from our fields, woodlands and the sea? YES!
Do we want a community where serving the public good is something we can be proud of? YES!
This morning 4000 people have given the lie to any claim that this campaign is just a small group of old guys. You are all leaders in this campaign. Thank you.