So Knowle has been spared for the moment! The vote at today’s DMC meeting was 6 votes to 3 (including the Chairman) against approval of EDDC’s plans.
Well done to all contributors to the excellent debate. The first speech from the floor , by Richard Thurlow, set the exceptionally high standard.
Here it is:
I am speaking on behalf of the Sid Vale Association the oldest Civic Society in the UK.; Over the years we have purchased land both inside and outside the town in order to safeguard it from development. This helps to make Sidmouth what it is today, a town blessed with pleasant buildings and “green lungs” inside it. Thus it is with a great deal of anger that we are fighting this proposal for the destruction of a beautiful parkland in the centre of the town.
If you approve it you will give permission for a project which will irreparably change the appearance of our beautiful town forever. You will severely damage the local economy, which is already fragile, and you will create the loss of over 70 jobs. And all for a most ill conceived idea.
The Application is now in its third edition, its economic and ecological supporting facts having been challenged by us four times. Our Planning Adviser has said that he has never seen such a badly prepared proposal, or its continued re-application.
Many inconsistencies and errors still remain in the Application
The Officer’s Report to you glosses over a number of real planning constraints, and ignores inconvenient truths. The Application does NOT comply with the Local Plan, which contains your own Planning Regulations
For instance policy E3 stipulates that “Permission will not be granted for change of use of current employment unless options for the site have been fully explored and THAT THERE IS A CLEAR DEMONSTRATION OF SURPLUS SUPPLY OF EMPLOYEMNT LAND ELSEWHERE IN A LOCALITY” The OR acknowledges that this has not been done.
Tthe Officer’s Report states that “all reasonable measures are being taken to protect habitats”, but the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats Regulations have still not been complied with.
Both the Officer’s Report and your Economic Development Manager acknowledge that any relocation will lead to significant job losses and loss of spend in the local economy—“the overall impact is significant and is negative” they say.
Nearly 30% of our Public Open space in the town centre will be lost, mainly from the formal gardens.
We will lose our Park and Walk site, and car parking is a critical issue in Sidmouth.
The Council has already spent over £250000 of taxpayer’s money, plus officer’s time on this divisive proposal… the final cost will be much higher. There have been over 1800 objections; not one Sidmouth organisation, public or private supports it. 4000 marched against it and over 2800 local people signed a petition against it. IT HAS NO SUPPORT.
Whilst we support the Council’s wish to occupy more modern and smaller premises, no real analysis of ALL options to achieve this have been explored. We believe that there is a compromise but all our efforts to have a meaningful discussion about other options have been ignored.
If a private landowner had proposed this development, the destruction of a fine site in centre of the town, it would have been rejected out of hand. It is sheer vandalism.
The Application does not satisfy the current Local Plan, and has numerous severe adverse effects on the town, both visually and economically. We urge you to reject it and force a rethink of the Applicant’s intentions.
Should you approve it we are determined to use our full resources to pursue what we believe is a most ill considered application.