Following a democratic deluge of informed comments, letters, photographs and relevant videos, the Head of planning, transportation and environment at Devon County Council has revised its response to Fords’ application for planning permission.
The recommendation is: “The road giving access to the site is by reason of its inadequate width and junctions unsuitable to accommodate the increase in traffic likely to be contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework.” The full text of the response is copied below*.
As reported in the Sidmouth Herald, Fords have just sold their plumbing and electrical business to Clearvac International and will be free to “focus on their property business interests”.
Of the 387 individual comments sent to EDDC – only two are in favour of the development.
*’County Highway Authority
Comment Date: Mon 19 Sep 2016
The County Highway Authority (CHA) has considered the application in the light of the Local Plan Strategy 26 – Development at Sidmouth, and the more detailed information contained in the application.
It should be recognised that Strategy 26 allows for the provision of up to 5 hectares of additional employment land on the site with particular onus on B1 space (with any retail “ancillary to the primary use of each unit”).
The allocation site will be developed in 2 phases, the first 3 hectares in the southern part of the site, and the second phase of 2 hectares in the northern part of the site after the 5 year review, of the Local Plan, and only if the southern part of the site has been fully developed and at least 90% occupied for employment uses first. If the first phase has not been developed by the first plan review, then the employment allocation for Sidmouth should be re-examined. Furthermore, the employment site must be subject to the highest design and landscaping standards with extensive planting and wide buffers around the existing homes to minimise any amenity impacts. The proposed employment site will need to contribute a section towards the Sidmouth to Sidbury cycle route.
The CHA has concerns that the application with 40% B1, 30% B2 & 30% B8 will encourage greater numbers of large vehicles to the B8 element than originally thought and that this is in conflict with the required onus on B1 allocation as described in Strategy 26. This application actually puts the onus on B2 & B8, at a combined 60%, and the B1 element at 40%. Which the CHA suggests is not putting the onus on B1 allocation.
The B8 element has direct implications on the type and size of vehicles that will be attracted to the site and also on the suitability of the local highway network to cope with numbers of large vehicles accessing the site. In this case the lack of width of carriageway and the lack of suitable footway and/or footway widths on the A375 at School Street, south of the site, and at Sidbury, north of the site, means that the local highway network is not suitable for large vehicles that are likely to be attracted to the development.
The application has placed great store in the accompanying Transport Assessment (TA) that claims 15% of the development traffic will use the A375 north of the site through Sidbury. The CHA has concerns that this percentage is unlikely to be correct because this road connects to Honiton and the wider highway network of the A30 and A303 to the east and the M5 to the west. I do not know on what basis this assumption has been made nor how this percentage could be controlled in the future. Therefore more information on how this percentage figure has been derived is required.
I have enquired with my predecessor on the scope for the TA that was agreed by ourselves in 2011/12. It appears that the only thing that was discussed was the possible impact on the signalled junction at Sidford Cross. The existing widths of the A375 at School Street and at Sidbury or the possibility of rat-running at Fry’s Lane and Brook Lane does not appear to been requested by DCC at the time. However it is clear from the individual consultation responses that these elements should have been included within the TA.
The applicants TA was issued in February 2012, however I understand that vehicle queuing counts were undertaken by DCC in May 2012 which indicated larger stacking at the junction approaches than in the TA. It would appear that the more up to date DCC figures have not been used in the applicants re-issue of their original TA.
The CHA considers that even though the applicants TA appears to have been accepted by the Inspector at the Examination In Public of the Local Plan, this TA is now at least 4 years out of date and that a more up to date analysis is required to test the highway impact and existing highway conditions. Such analysis should encompass a revised and agreed scoping to include the existing A375 carriageway width at School Street, Sidford and in Sidbury, rat-running via Brook Lane and Fry’s Lane and new traffic queuing counts at all arms of the Sidford Cross signalised junction. The assumption of 15% north travel to and from the site through Sidbury should also be examined/justified in much greater detail.
It will be necessary to have a TA for the proposed 1st Phase with growth up to 5 years and another TA to include both the 1st and 2nd phases with growth from 5 to years. This would give a much fuller understanding of the traffic likely to be generated by the proposed development, in all its forms, and also the affect that this traffic will have on the surrounding local highway network and the wider strategic highway network.
The CHA is keen to introduce better pedestrian amenity at Sidford Cross junction and requests that this element is also looked at in detail by the applicant. This may require the introduction of electronic improvements to the signal system. However, this should not be at the detriment of queuing traffic to provide the pedestrian amenity.
THE HEAD OF PLANNING, TRANSPORTATION AND ENVIRONMENT, ON BEHALF OF DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL, AS LOCAL HIGHWAY AUTHORITY,
1. The road giving access to the site is by reason of its inadequate width and junctions, unsuitable to accommodate the increase in traffic likely to be contrary to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
Officer authorised to sign on behalf of the County Council 19 September 2016 ‘
Note from SOS:
A video of last Wednesday’s gridlock in Sidbury has already had 2800 hits on the ‘Say No to Sidford Business Park’ Facebook page.
And well over 1000 people have already signed the 38 degrees petition. To add your name, go to https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/say-no-to-east-devon-business-park