Save Our Sidmouth

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Letter to the Herald – 14 September


14 September

I object to the proposal for outline planning permission at the Knowle.

I am concerned at the proposed irretrievable loss of public amenities, including:

  • Removal of public open space
  • Destruction of a fine example of Regency parkland
  • Removal of unique trees in our civic arboretum
  • Degradation of the initial aspect for those approaching the town
  • Removal of a car-park that can assist the town to become pedestrian-friendly
  • Intensification of traffic congestion in narrow streets around Knowle Drive

But my basic objection is that this proposal is in conflict with the Development Plan, whose provisions are not outweighed by any material considerations.

The applicant needs to provide an Environmental Impact Assessment before outline planning permission can be considered. The Habitats Directive needs to be taken into account. The Economic Impact Assessment is seriously flawed.

The planning authority must respect the law. The proposal has to be rejected on the above grounds.

However there is a demand for increased provision of care facilities from the growing number of elderly and infirm citizens in Sidmouth. Currently the supply problem is for care-workers, who need to be recruited and housed within our community, not for a large building. Sheltered housing integrated with a network of specialist therapeutic care facilities on an appropriate scale is needed rather than a traditional massive warehouse “home”.

We need further social housing in Sidmouth – affordable by and reserved for the workers who maintain and service the town as care-workers, skilled trades, physiotherapists, teachers, nurses, etc. – constructed on genuine brownfield sites in the town.

These alternative proposals for the site may not appeal to EDDC’s traditional development partners but it is important to remember that the task of the planning authority is to plan for the future needs of the community rather than the short-term profits of landowners and developers. Before a replacement outline planning proposal that complies with policy is
submitted, there is time for serious public engagement to establish whether this is what the community really needs.

Yours sincerely

Robert Crick

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SAVE Britain’s Heritage – Letter of Objection

Ed Freeman
Case Officer
East Devon District Council


20 September 2012

By email

Dear Mr Freeman

The Knowle and The Knowle Park, Sidmouth – 12/1847/MOUT

SAVE writes to object in the strongest terms to the proposal to demolish the 19th- century council offices and build on the Knowle Park in Sidmouth, Devon. This application proposes the demolition of The Knowle, a handsome three-storey building which started its life as a cottage orné in the Picturesque style and was adapted in the mid-19th century as a hotel before becoming the council’s offices in 1969. Although it has been altered several times – when it was enlarged to become a hotel and again when converted to offices – the Knowle retains much of its late-19th century interior decoration including fireplaces with delft tiles, decorated timber door frames, an open-string main staircase, some plaster ceilings, Pugin-style patterned wallpaper and painted columns. These features give the interior a grand and imposing feel.

The Knowle stands within attractive and extensive landscaped grounds called Knowle Park located in the centre of Sidmouth. Parts of the park were designated in 1973 as Public Open Space. Despite the fact they have been altered and the original conservatories have gone, much survives and consists of southern terraces and paths, open fields to the north east, and plants and mature trees. The park is a much-loved local amenity and provides a visual contrast to the urban landscape.

In our view, loss of the Knowle and development of the park on the scale proposed would represent a devastating blow to the history and character of Sidmouth, a remarkably well-preserved Regency town in a beautiful setting on the Jurassic coast.

The application states that the council wishes to move to modern premises because it believes The Knowle is not fit for purpose because it is ‘ageing’ and is expensive to run. There are many precedents throughout the UK where historic buildings have been updated, at affordable costs, and SAVE sees no reason why this cannot be done here. The council should be setting an example to the district and showing that historic buildings should be valued not discarded.

In our view, The Knowle is eminently capable of conversion and re-use. Although reuse of the existing building may not produce the same level of return as new-build, this does not mean that it is not practical or economic to do so. The long-term benefits of retaining this building should be considered as it would serve to secure a local landmark.

We have studied the Design and Access Statement submitted with the application. The section on Heritage is brief and insufficient and the applicant states a separate, stand alone Heritage Statement has been submitted. However, following enquiries yesterday we discovered this is in fact not the case and that the council is still waiting to receive the Heritage Statement. We understand therefore that the council cannot properly consider the application until this document has been received and so the consultation period will be extended. In the meantime, and while we wait to study this statement and provide further comments, we would like to register our strong objection to the application.

A listing application was made to the council for The Knowle and Knowle Park. Although English Heritage considered the building and park to be below the threshold for national designation, it acknowledged both to be of ‘clear local interest’ and that they are ‘evidently highly-valued by the local community’. The report also stated that the building ‘retains some attractive internal features’.

In our view, a 60-bed care home and up to 50 residential homes constitutes as gross over-development of the site. A more appropriate site for the proposed development could surely be found on the outskirts of the town for a care home and residential dwellings. The NPPF (74) states that:

‘74. Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless:
● an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or
● the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or
● the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss.’

These criteria clearly have not been met.

In light of the above concerns, SAVE urges you to refuse this application.

Yours sincerely,

Rhiannon Tracy
Deputy Director


Peter Nasmyth


New documents added – Objections to Planning Application 12/1847/MOUT

The following have been added to our Documents section: