Save Our Sidmouth


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An Open Letter from the Chair of Save Our Sidmouth

I would encourage all residents of the Sidvale and those living elsewhere who love the area, to register their objection to EDDC’s Outline Planning Application for the development of the Knowle.

The proposals need to be challenged with all the force that we can command. Not only will the parkland and open space which add to the beauty of the town and provide a public open space for the western side of Sidmouth be destroyed but the removal of the car parks will greatly add traffic to the already congested streets as visitors look for parking space at the weekends. All this will destroy the ambience of Sidmouth, which is a jewel in the crown of the East Devon Coast.

The buildings themselves, comprising the old hotel and former Sidmouth UDC offices, and the more modern offices behind will be razed; the new development will build not only on this, but a good percentage of the adjacent Parkland This land is described as “fine parkland” by Sir Nicholas Pevsner in his ‘Buildings of England’.

EDDC are driven by small group of philistine councillors, who have developed a policy which is that “they have an ambition to move to Honiton”. Thus the development is solely to raise money for their planned relocation to Honiton.

EDDC say that a “Business Case” to be produced later will determine whether they will move or not depending on whether the move would be “Cost Neutral”. But we all know that in their own minds the decision is made and what they are trying to do is rush the proposal through in the face of great local public opposition.

Whilst we recognise the commendable ambition of the Council to minimise operating and maintenance costs and work from a building that satisfies their needs, we would have expected that EDDC, knowing the probable reaction from the Public, would have investigated the main options and the benefits and disbenefits of each before presenting and carrying out a consultation with residents and council tax payers. In this way they would have acted identically to any commercial organisation which would have investigated and costed all the options, before selecting one which best fits. The arrogance of Councillors is beyond belief.

We have proved that their contention that Honiton is a “more central” location is wrong; we have asked them to demonstrate that is there is not a more cost effective solution (as suggested by Robin Fuller), which they have not done. The only costing that they have done for refurbishing the existing building is to apply a very broad cost approach to the whole of the existing building, when EDDC admit that they will only need about 50% of the current area.

Relocating will force 142 Sidmouth workers (Richard Cohen’s own figure), of the total number of staff of the 365 working in the Knowle to travel to Honiton. This forced migration will be directly in contravention of EDDC’s own proposals in the forthcoming Local Plan which proposes to establish a 12 acre Employment Site in Sidford as part of a policy of reducing the “out commuting” by 50%. Where is the logic in that?

I would urge all concerned members of the Public to object to these proposals by 19th September 2012; online at “eastdevon.gov.uk”, or email KnowleRelocation@eastdevon.gov.uk, or write to EDDC, Knowle Station Road Sidmouth.

Some Reasons for rejecting the Proposals:

  • The Planning Application contravenes EDDC’s current Local Plan Policy RE1
  • It is contrary to Government Guidelines SN/SC/1096 which states that Public Open Space should not be built on
  • The land surrounding the Knowle is Parkland and Recreation land and is not for Housing
  • The traffic consequence of additional traffic on Knowle Drive is very serious, for pedestrians and vehicles.
  • The loss of the Weekend Parking will have a serious effect on the town
  • No attempt has been made to investigate options which preserve the parkland
  • There will be great economic loss to the town, as contracts placed locally will be lost.
  • Relocation will force over 140 Sidmouth employees to commute, contrary to EDDC’s stated policy in the Proposed Local Plan of reducing out commuting
  • The Environmental effects of the development have not been fully investigated as neither a Screening Opinion or a full Environmental Assessment Statement has been produced
  • This destruction at Knowle is contrary to the EDDC’s own “East Devon Open Space Study 2011” (http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/lp-openspacestudyfinalreport.pdf) which says: “Open space and sports and recreation facilities enhance people’s lives, as well as creating sustainable, healthy, and vibrant communities. People have an inherent need to access open space easily, for exercise, recreation, and to create a general feeling of well-being.” The Study continues: “Parks and recreation grounds refer to defined areas of green open space that have been formally laid out for public enjoyment … This includes public parks and gardens such as … the Knowle in Sidmouth.”
  • The proposal is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 in that it takes public open space without demonstrating an exceptional need to do so and without offering an alternative area in compensation.
  • The recent Petition recorded 3850 signatures against the Knowle proposals.
  • SOS are strongly against them

Richard Thurlow, SOS Chair


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Community Picnic – 22 August

On Wednesday 22 August there is to be a Community Picnic in the grounds of the EDDC, Knowle gardens, between 4.30 and 7.30p.m.
Please try to attend this gathering, and tell all your friends too! We are gathering in a loving and positive way to help the trees there, which are currently threatened with being killed in order to make space for new houses. 
This is a great chance to demonstrate what a wonderful public space the Knowle really is.
The Council has applied for permission this week so your support is becoming critical. By coming to see the trees and joining together in loving Community around them, we can hopefully help to preserve them.
This is NOT an angry protest meeting, but an effort to create something positive around the situation.
Hoping to see you there.


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EDDC presentation – 14 July

On Saturday the 14 July EDDC  made the second of their presentations about the Knowle. In wet weather they, including Cllr Diviani, the leader, sought to convince the public that the move would be worthwhile. This was accompanied by a questionnaire which was heavily loaded in favour of the move, with several one-sided questions.

We attended, advertising the EDDC meeting on Tuesday 17 at 10.00am, when the Local Plan will be discussed by the Development Management Committee, and provided an alternative questionnaire, which received 160 responses. Kelvin Dent has been analysing this over the weekend and the results will be presented to EDDC and the Councillors in the next few days.

The main comment from Diviani was that “All the same old people attended.. it would be nice to see some new faces.” As a reasoned response from an elected member supposed to be representing us, this was somewhat of an insult.

Apart from the meeting tomorrow, EDDC are once again presenting their view of the Knowle and next Wednesday the 25th, the full EDDC council will review the Local Plan.