Save Our Sidmouth

An oversupply of parkland in Sidmouth?

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Not true, as this speech from local resident Peter Whitfield points out. It was delivered at the Development Management Committee Meeting which rejected the Outline Planning Application for Knowle last Friday, 1st March.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

One of my many objections to this application is that you have been seriously misled by the Officer’s report. He claims that Sidmouth has more Parks & Recreation Grounds than it needs according to standards but admits there is some dispute about this without saying what this is.

The Planning Support Statement which the Report quotes says that there is a Standard of provision of 1ha/1000 of population of Parks & Recreation Grounds for urban areas. This is wrong. The Open Space Study which this document purports to be quoting says no such thing. You will recall that at your June meeting last year this committee voted to adopt that Study (commissioned from Bennet Leisure & Planning) as evidence in future applications and as policy in the emergent local plan. You adopted the whole document, not just selected portions of it. It suggests a minimum standard of 1ha/1000 for urban areas as minutes of your meeting record, but then goes on to qualify this by a whole series of caveats which insist that it should not be a one-size-fits-all standard. (The economies of Sidmouth, Honiton & Axminster vary widely and the need for both quantity and variety of open space varies accordingly as the OSS acknowledges.) (My 3 minutes do not allow me quote them all here but can give examples if questioned.)

The Report ignores these important qualifications and therefore draws the wrong conclusion that Sidmouth has more Parks and Recreation grounds than it “needs” so losing a bit of the Knowle parkland won’t matter! Never mind that it would also change the whole character of the area.

Parks & Recreation grounds ( one of fourteen types of open space identified in the OSS!) are carefully specified  as “defined areas of green open space that have been formally laid out for public enjoyment. Typically they will include lawns, flower beds, paths, and occasionally facilities such as toilets or a food stand. (This includes public parks and gardens such as Connaught Gardens or The Knowle in Sidmouth, (as well as privately owned formal gardens that are open to the public such as Killerton Gardens in Broadclyst.”)

The officer’s claim that all 13+ha of the Byes fit this definition is wrong – (despite it being endorsed as he says by “professionals”.)  He claims that, because they are “managed” they must fit. The specification does not mention “managed”: it specifies being “formally laid out” and “will include lawns & flower beds”, characteristics notable by their absence throughout the area generically referred to locally as The Byes.

More than half of the area shown on the Council’s own map as The Byes is in fact owned and managed by the SVA as a wild flower area with woodland & pond and 2.25ha of Sid Meadow within the Byes are owned by the National Trust who have said that they are managed as natural grassland and are in fact recorded on your Asset Database as Open Space. The OSS has separate standards of provision for areas such as these.

Putting these sections of The Byes into their correct designation as natural & semi-natural green space means that there is no surplus of P & R in Sidmouth – in fact there is less than even the minimum suggested standard..

Other speeches from the same meeting, can be found at our earlier posts on 1st and 2nd March. More to follow.

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