District Council elections – will you help me?

This is a cheeky request which I have also just sent out on my Facebook page.

The District Council elections are upon us again on 4 May and I would need get my election leaflets delivered across my Ward in the weeks leading up to then.

Any kind people willing to offer to help me with my deliveries to any part of – Sidbury, Harcombe, Salcombe Regis, Fortescue all the way down Sid Road to Cliff Road and New Town above East Beach?

Also, would anyone allow me to put up a poster board outside their property in any of these areas?

Please contact me at johnloudoun4sidmouthrural@yahoo.com.

A big thank you in advance.

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4 May local elections – voter ID now required

There are elections on 4 May for both the District Council and Sidmouth Town Council. It is now a legal requirement that if you turn up to the polling station to cast your vote there in the traditional way, you will now have to provide a specified form of photographic ID to prove who you are.

However, you can still apply for a postal vote without having to show this photographic ID. If you want to apply for a postal vote you will need to do so by no later than 25 April. If you haven’t already asked to have a postal vote then you can apply for one to Electoral Services at the District Council offices or do so on line at https://eastdevon.gov.uk/elections-and-registering-to-vote/electoral-services/voting-by-post/

You can check what forms of photographic ID are acceptable at polling stations at

https://eastdevon.gov.uk/elections-and-registering-to-vote/voter-id-2023/accepted-forms-of-photo-id/

If not have any of the accepted forms of photographic ID, you can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate (VAC) and the above link will take you to the appropriate website. However, the latest that you can apply for this VAC is again by no later than 25 April and in order to do this you must be registered to vote.

If you are not yet registered to vote you can do so, but by no later than 17 April, at https://eastdevon.gov.uk/elections-and-registering-to-vote/electoral-services/register-to-vote/

East Devon District Council’s Local Plan consultation – my comments

East Devon District Council’s Local Plan public consultation is just about to close and as part of my consideration of local sites contained within the draft Plan, I set out here my views on the Plan and various specific sites.

In approaching my opinions on each of the proposed local sites that have been put forward by landowners and/or developers for consideration to be adopted within the local Plan that emerges following this period of public and subsequent District Council consideration I recognise the need to build more homes across East Devon, particularly social housing and affordable properties.

Equally, I recognise the need to provide sites to support local businesses, be they one person firms or larger SMEs, as we need to find ways to attract and retain employment locally. Additionally, we must find ways to build our tourism offer which is something that strongly supports our local economy and provides necessary local employment.

The big conundrums that the public and the District Council have to grapple with is how many homes and employment sites do we really need, not just for the immediate future but across the life of this Local Plan and where should these be allocated? In Sidmouth and the wider Sid Valley there is clearly a need for more homes. But where should they be built is a far more vexing question. If most people were honest, they would probably say that they don’t want anything build near to them, but we all know that is both impractical and more than likely quite selfish.

There are several red lines I would like to see protected. One of these is respecting and protecting the AONB that surrounds us here in the Sid Valley, and to do this would mean severely restricting and potentially refusing to allow building to take place in the AONB. This is not NIMBYism but a genuine wish to defend our attractive and essential environment.

Another is ensuring that there is no further coalescence of the green buffer zone that exists between Sidbury and Sidford, although the granting of planning permission in 2019 by a Planning Inspector, for the business park at the site on Two Bridges Road in Sidford has moved the boundary between these two parts of the Sid Valley unnecessarily closer. I would not want to see the boundary between Sidbury and Sidford to move any closer.

Any further local development has to be linked to better and additional infrastructure and whilst this is not something that is taken into account when assessing the appropriateness of sites, it is none the less critical. To build more and more residential properties as are necessary, will inevitably place greater stain on our existing infrastructure including schools, GP surgeries, public transport, highways, as well as our mains water and sewerage systems and our other utilities.

The infrastructure issues are beyond either the responsibility or probably the influence of the District Council but it, as it develops our Local Plan must highlight these and at some point, they will all need to be addressed. If they are not then all of them will move from creaking to failing.

The following sites are ones that I have taken a particular interest in locally and which I have submitted comments as part of the public consultation around the Local Plan.

Sidbury

Sidm_34: land between Furzehill and Hillside, Sidbury EX10 0QZ.

This site has the potential to be developed for around 38 homes. In the draft Local Plan this site has been designated, by Officers, as a Second-Choice site.

This site was previously put forward by the landowner but at that point its development was on a much-reduced footprint and for fewer properties. This site now straddles the three fields that sit between Furzehill and Hillside and is not a flat site. A significant concern about this site is its road access. Two of the site’s three fields could provide road access via both Furzehill and Ebdon Lane (by Hillside). However, both these access points would not be suitable for a housing development of the proposed size. I think that accessing the site from Ebdon Lane (at the Hillside end of the site) would be incredibly difficult as it is a very narrow single-track road. Subsequent access from Ebdon Lane onto the A375 could be difficult.

Devon County Council, as the local highways authority, have indicated that its preferred access to this site would be via Furzehill but that is again a narrow road, with residents’ vehicles parked on it. Additionally, allowing vehicles for anything up to 40 homes on the site to access it via Furzehill is probably not appropriate. It would also create a potential bottleneck at the War Memorial junction.

The Landowner’s stated preference is to have a road access off of Chapel Street on the A375. This is not only a potentially dangerous spot as anyone who drives along it can recognise. It is a pinch point and has poor lines of sight, this potentially dangerous. I cannot see how this could be suitable or safe.

The site sits within the AONB with parts of its with steep slopes and below adjacent to it is the Grade II listed Furzehill Farm and would have a detrimental impact upon it.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_25: Field bordering junction of Cotford Road and Roncombe Lane, Sidbury EX10 0QN.

This agricultural site has been submitted for residential purposes to accommodate just under 40 properties. In the draft Local Plan this site has been Rejected by Officers.

The site is situated within the AONB, with landscape visibility, on the edge of Sidbury village outside of its boundary settlement. Access to the site would be either from Roncombe Lane, which is a narrow lane or from the busy A375 at a point where joining it from the site would not be appropriate and potentially dangerous.

Some or all of the site is contained within Flood Zone 3 and there is high risk flooding along roads adjacent to the site and the development of this site could add to increased storm water runoff will exacerbate downstream flooding.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_11: Burnt Oak, Sidbury.

This site has already obtained planning permission. Although given the access to the site is on a blind junction on the busy A375 I am surprised that this alone did not lead to the site being rejected when previously considered.

Sidford

Sidm_08: Land at Two Bridges Road (designated employment site), Sidford.

This site is where the business park has already been granted planning permission. Since the draft Local Plan was published the site’s owners have put the site up for sale and in doing so, they have raised the possibility of this site obtaining change of use from employment land to either residential or a mixed use of employment and residential.

I have never been convinced that this site was suitable for use as employment land but that argument was lost in 2019 when a Planning Inspector determined it was suitable. As this is no longer agricultural land is a brown field site, I am in principle supportive of its future use being subject to change of use to either residential or a mixed use of employment and residential.

I hope that whoever owns this land going forward will approach the District Council for such a change of use.

Sidm_09: Land at Two Bridges Road (immediately north of the designated employment site), Sidford.

This site has previously been identified as a potential extension of the business park site next door; however, this site is not being pursued by the owners of the business park. In the draft Local Plan this site has been Rejected by Officers. 

The development of this site would lead to the loss of agricultural land in the AONB. It would leave to the creeping coalescence of Sidbury and Sidford which is protected within the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan.

The use of this site for industrial purposes would add to the already congested roads through Sidbury and the School Street part of Sidford and this would impact negatively on these areas.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_06a: Land at Two Bridges Road (immediately west of the designated employment site), Sidford.

This site has been submitted for a potential development of around 30 homes. This site is linked to site Sidm_06b (below). This site has been designated Preferred by Officers.

The development of this site would lead to the loss of agricultural land in the AONB. It would leave to the creeping coalescence of Sidbury and Sidford which is protected within the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan.

The use of this site for industrial purposes would add to the already congested roads through Sidbury and the School Street part of Sidford and this would impact negatively on these areas. This site cannot be considered in isolation to the existing permitted development at site Sidm_09 and the cumulative negative impact that this additional site would have upon the local community, the road network and the local vista.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_06b: Land at Two Bridges Road (immediately west of the designated employment site), Sidford.

This site has been submitted for potential development of up to around 300 homes. This site is linked to site Sidm_06a (above). This site has been Rejected by Officers.

The development of this site would lead to the loss of agricultural land in the AONB. It would leave to the creeping coalescence of Sidbury and Sidford which is protected within the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan.

The use of this site for industrial purposes would add to the already congested roads through Sidbury and the School Street part of Sidford and this would impact negatively on these areas. This location would not be appropriate for permitted development that a site of this site could deliver. This site cannot be considered in isolation to the existing permitted development at site Sidm_09 and the cumulative negative impact that this additional site would have upon the local community, the road network and the local vista.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_12: Land adjoining Fortescue Road, Sidmouth.

This agricultural site of just under 5 hectares has been submitted for the residential development of around 50 homes. This site has been Rejected by Officers.

This site slopes from Fortescue Road towards the River Sid in the vicinity of the Byes which I believe is a restricted development area and the AONB forms part of this site’s boundary. Part of the site at least is within Flood Zone 3.

The site is located at the edge of Sidmouth and would encroach upon the boundary of Sidford.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_13: Land adjoining Fortescue Road, Sidmouth.

This agricultural site has been submitted for the development of just over 30 houses. This site has been Rejected by Officers.

The site is located at the edge of Sidmouth and would encroach upon the boundary of Sidford.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Sidm_14: Land adjacent to Stevens Cross Close, Sidford (east side), EX10 9Q.

This site is located adjacent to the A3052 at the edge of Sidford. This site has been Rejected by Officers.

This site is within the AONB and any development on this site would be highly visible.

I do not support including this site in the Local Plan.

Policy 36 – Coastal Change Management Areas

The coastal change management areas (CCMA) landward boundary is about 300 metres from the cliff that is parallel to Cliff Road, Sidmouth.

The CCMA landward boundary is the line to which the LPA estimate the cliff will recede in 100 years’ time however, the equivalent 100-year recession line in the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP) is about 50 metres from the cliff that is parallel to Cliff Road. There is a considerable difference in where the draft Local Plan and the BMP draw this boundary. There is a considerable difference between these two boundaries and if the Local Plan’s CCMA boundary is accepted over the BMP’s boundary this will have a significant impact upon properties located in the vicinity of the cliff.

Within the draft Local Plan this 20-year line represents the boundary of the land that the District Council “expect” will be lost to erosion in 20 years’ time.

I am unclear as to why or how the District Council can through the Local Plan and the BMP processes can identify two separate boundaries here. Given that the BMP is reaching a business case conclusion based upon the 50-metre boundary I would suggest that this is an already accepted boundary within the council and should therefore be applied within the Local Plan.

The draft Local Plan is proposing “There should be no new residential development including conversion of existing buildings within 300m of the cliff that is parallel to Cliff Road”.

I believe that is not a sound proposal for several reasons, including:

The mapping that is being used in this draft Policy is not the best available, 

The policy is not flexible because there are uncertainties in the mapping and this policy does not take them into account,

The Policy does not cover the provision future coastal defence works, as being determined within the BMP business case that will change the areas at risk from erosion,

National planning guidance refers to “expected losses” (of land) in 20,50- and 100-years’ time.  This draft Policy does not explain what level of exception has been adopted for the draft Local Plan and the justification for it,

It would also mean that any that property owners would not be allowed to upgrade or adapt their properties. This would have a negative impact upon property values and residents’ ability to sell their properties. The impact would not just be for property owners in Cliff Road but also the immediate surrounding area,

Apart from the planning implications, there is the question of the negative impact upon the properties in Cliff Road and the immediate surrounding area because the 100-year CCMA recession line is about 300 metres from the cliff, the 20 CCMA erosion line may well include the properties along Cliff Road. This could lead to the wider area including and beyond Cliff Road becoming a blighted area.

Sidford business park site – its sale is a local homes opportunity

As I’m sure residents will be only too aware, I have been a long objector to the land at Two Bridges Road in Sidford, which sits in my Ward, being used as employment land. This is not because I am against maintaining or creating jobs locally, but rather I have never believed at the site is the right one to be used as employment land. But as we all know in 2019 the Planning Inspector disagreed and so since then the site’s owners have step by step obtained planning permission for all the necessary aspects of developing the site as a business park for small businesses.

Since I was elected, I have sought to work with the site’s owners to ensure that the right balance of design and infrastructure is created for the planned units.

As we have learned this week the site’s owners, who also own the Alexandria industrial site in Sidmouth, have put the Sidford site up for sale. The reason for the sale is so that they can afford to redevelop and upgrade the Alexandria site. They are able to do upgrade Alexandria as they have now managed to purchase a strip of land bordering Station Road which will now allow better access to Alexandria negating the need to carry on using the inappropriate access off of Alexandria Road. I believe that if this option had been available to them all those years ago, they would not have looked to develop the Sidford site.

As I say in order to fund all of these the site’s owners now need to sell the Sidford site. Since I was elected, I have advocated to the site’s owners that we don’t need employment units both at Alexandria and across the full site at Sidford. I believe that they now also are of that opinion.

The Sidford site just will never be returned to agricultural use and so we need to look at what would be best for residents, as well as businesses locally for operating from this site. I am advocating for the site to be developed for housing, possibly supplemented by, say 25% of the site at the rear, being used as employment use.

Using only 25% of the site for employment, added to the extra employment that an upgraded Alexandria would deliver would meet the local total square footage required for employment. It would also deliver extra much needed homes without having to raid other agricultural land locally.

After such a chequered recent past that the Sidford site has had, and despite the eye watering sale figure attached to it, I hope that the real story that will emerge is whether this sale could be a good thing for residents and businesses with Alexandria being upgraded and Sidford being put to a better use through most of it being given over to housing.

This is why in today’s Sidmouth Herald I have called upon whoever purchases the Sidford site to take advantage of the current Local Plan consultation to seek to have the site’s designation as solely employment land changed to mixed use to allow homes to be build there.

Remembrance Sunday in Sidbury

I was proud to today lay two wreaths at Sidbury’s war memorial and to participate in the village’s act of remembrance. The first wreath that I laid was that from East Devon District Council officially on behalf of the King. The other was on behalf of Sidmouth Town Council.

We were lucky to be able to hold the service in glorious warm sunshine and I estimate that around 50 residents attended from the young, possibly around aged 5 or 6 up to those of us who are much older.

The war memorial is situated at the junction of the busy A375 and Greenhead. For the first time during the service we had two drivers, who could see that a crowd was gathered across Greenhead and around the memorial, determinedly drive up separately through the crowd, albeit at a slow pace. The crowd had to part to let them both through. Bizarrely one even came back down moments later having collected someone. I genuinely don’t understand why they, having seen we were all conducting the Remembrance service, didn’t hold back. These things don’t go on for hours! I found the action of both drivers most disrespectful.

£2 per day car parking is back

The District Council is again introducing a winter car parking deal across its car parks. From 1 November until 30 March you can park all day for a maximum payment of £2 per day.

Both cash and card payments are accepted, and if you are using the RingGo app on your mobile, the location code is ‘42973’.

Although your printed ticket may not display an expiry time of midnight, it will still be valid for the whole day.

Still no County Council progress on Sidbury multi-use path

Sadly, the multi-use path that would connect the village to Sidford and beyond continues to elude us. This sorry saga has dragged on for so long now and still shows not likelihood of becoming a reality ant time soon. You will recall that this matter is the responsibility of the County Council with the latest two phase proposed route being touted by County a year ago.

Phase one would run from the Sidford Business Park site, cross the A375 into the field behind the Wales & West Utilities site. It then would cross Ottery Lane traversing the fields up to where it joins the edge of Hillside. It then goes through Hillside, probably down to Burnt Oak, re-joining the A375 again.

Phase two is proposed to go from the end of phase one into Ebdon Lane and from there it would enter the fields on the right and go all the way up to Furzehill, finally reaching Greenhead and down to the war memorial. From there you would need to cross the A375 to reach the footpath into the centre of the village.

A year ago, on this site I set out my significant reservations about these routes.

In the past few months our County Councillor has provided a couple of updates on this project. Firstly, at the Sidmouth Town Council meeting at the beginning of August we were advised that the current approach was to submit a planning application (presumably for phases one and two), obtain agreement from the landowners for use of their land and then look for funding!

Our County Councillor said that the planning application was being prepared and that County had as yet identified any sources of funding for this project.

Within the last fortnight our County Councillor has confirmed to me that County only has funds allocated in 2022/23 and 2023/24 for further development of the route, including seeking planning permission. He has also confirmed that at this point County still don’t have sufficient funds to bring phase one to a successful conclusion. Further, the cost of phase 2 would be borne by anyone developing the Cave Estate land between Hillside and Furzehill (see my post on 13 October “A possible new housing site for Sidbury).

My personal opinion is that given the County Council has a budget deficit this year of around £60m and given the parlous state of this country’s finances, then funding phase 1 still remains a significant challenge for County. Even if County ever do raise funding for this the projected costs of £1m per kilometre that was being budgeted for a year ago will today be significantly higher. Who knows what the costs will be next year, the year after or whenever.

This village has and is being badly served by the County Council on this matter and I see no sign of anyone there taking steps to drive this project forward.

A possible new housing site for Sidbury

The District Council is required to have a Local Plan that sets out which sites it has allocated for both employment and residential housing. The council is currently going through a process to produce a draft new Local Plan which should, by early November, be put out to public comment and consultation.

The council has to identify a certain number of sites for housing as set by government. This is causing the council difficulties as it needs to balance meeting these housing targets with ensuring that the sites allocated for these are the right ones in the right places and not just ones that landowners and developers want to pursue, such as the site that was previously allocated for the Sidford Business Park.

The process of developing a new draft Local Plan is coming to a conclusion and is being undertaken in the council’s Strategic Planning Committee. Through the committee’s lengthy process of developing the new draft Plan it has been guided by officers’ assessments of sites that have been put forward. Through this process sites have been identified as preferred sites for allocation for development along with what officers have termed as second-best choice sites.

In Sidbury several potential sites were put forward by a couple of landowners. One in Roncombe Lane has been deemed not appropriate by officers in their initial site assessment. This still leaves a site that the Cave Estate is proposing across three of their fields that lie between Hillside and Furzehill. Back in January I commented on this site but I can now provide an update.

Recently Savills, on behalf of the Estate, made a presentation to the Strategic Planning Committee outlining the benefits of this proposed site which would potentially house between 38 to 50 residential properties. From my initial assessment of this site, which officers have identified not as a preferential site but rather a second-best choice site, is that I concur with this assessment. This site will be included in the draft Plan as part of the public consultation.

We know that we need more homes build locally and they need to be affordable. The site between Hillside and Furzehill is probably the best location to consider in Sidbury, but its not an easy site to place houses on and its road access is problematic. I think that accessing the site from Ebdon Lane (at the Hillside end of the site) would be incredibly difficult as it is a very narrow single-track road. Subsequent access from Ebdon Lane onto the A375 could be difficult.

Devon County Council, as the local highways authority, have indicated that its preferred access to this site would be via Furzehill but that is again a narrow road, with residents’ vehicles parked on it. Additionally, allowing vehicles for anything up to 50 homes on the site to access it via Furzehill is probably not appropriate. It would also create a potential bottleneck at the War Memorial.

Bizarrely Savills have said that their preferred access point to the site would be from Chapel Street which would be at some point opposite where the footpath down to the cricket pitch is located. This is not only a potentially dangerous spot as anyone who drives along it can recognise. It is a pinch point and has poor lines of sight. Again, allowing vehicles for anything up to 50 homes on the site to access it from here would probably not be appropriate.

Below is a screenshot of what Savills showed to the Strategic Planning Committee recently. It shows three potential options with Options 1 and 2 potentially accessing the site from both Ebdon Lane and Chapel Street. Option 3 only accesses via Chapel Street. Interestingly the highways authority’s preferred access via Furzehill isn’t even shown as a consideration.

Whilst these are some of my initial thoughts about this site, you all will be able to make your own minds up and submit your thoughts as part of the forthcoming public consultation that should be starting next month.

There’s local transport funds, use them to help Sidbury

The following was in an email I sent yesterday, Andrea Davis, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for transport and Mike Davis, Stagecoach South West’s Managing Director. I also copied in our MP, Simon Jupp and our County Councillor, Stuart Hughes. This followed up on my previous requests directly to Mike Davis for the Sidbury bus service to be fully re-instated.

I believe that the County Council has almost £600k that it is making available to Stagecoach as additional funding to support some existing routes and I presume that as the relevant County Council Cabinet Member you have been directly involved in this decision.

You may be aware that Sidbury is served by the number 9 bus route which connects the village to, in one direction, Honiton and in the other Sidford and Sidmouth and beyond, including Exeter. Residents in this village have no safe way of walking to Sidford and Sidmouth as there is no footpath along the connecting part of the busy A375 that runs through Sidbury. This road carries around a million vehicles a year including large long wheel base lorries, farm vehicles, as well as cars, including those towing caravans, motorhomes and motorbikes. 

In addition to the primary school that is situated in the centre of the village there are also two shops, the church, the parish rooms, the much-used village hall and the pub. I know that the two shops and the pub are most concerned that without a regular bus service their trade will suffer. Many of the village’s residents work outside of the village and young people in the village gravitate to Sidmouth and even to Exeter for entertainment. Residents also use Sidmouth for accessing pubs and restaurants, particularly in the evening. The village pub relies in part on trade from outside the village and it hosts league skittle and darts teams. Without an evening service village residents and those coming into the village to use the pub cannot travel using public transport.

The village has been well served by the bus service that ran daily from early morning until late in the evening. However back in the summer Stagecoach, with very little notice stopped providing a service to and from the village after around 7.00 pm. It also reduced the Sunday service to just two buses.

This village is effectively now isolated on a Sunday and each evening. Such isolation will impact upon the confidence of residents to stay living in the village, as well as could be a barrier to those who might move here. The village very much needs a thriving pub, shops and locations such as the village hall to keep it alive. Having a regular bus service helps maintain local confidence and brings much needed trade to our amenities.

I fully appreciate that Stagecoach is a commercial entity and that generally bus patronage has reduced since the start of covid. I also accept that the level of patronage into and out of Sidbury can be sparce. Sidbury has a population of older people as well as families. Some have to rely upon the bus service and others should be encouraged to use a bus rather than their vehicles in order to help the country tackle the perils of climate change.

A couple of weeks ago, after I made representations to Stagecoach, I met with Stagecoach South West’s Managing Director Mike Watson to get a better understanding of why Stagecoach had made the cuts to Sidbury’s bus service. It was made clear to me that I shouldn’t get my hopes up for a reversal of these cuts, although should circumstances change then the level of the service could be revisited.

I believe that a regular bus service, which includes it running into the evening, is an essential social service particularly for villages such as Sidbury. As Stagecoach runs a commercial operation then somehow or another services serving places such as Sidbury require either cross subsidy within Stagecoach and/or a subsidy to make routes financially viable. As for the former the village is at the whim of Stagecoach and as for the latter Sidbury requires financial support from either local or central government.

My plea to Stagecoach and the County Council is for some of this latest £600k funding to be used to reinstate some of Sidbury’s lost service, particularly in the evenings. Indeed, I would ask the County Council to consider providing a regular subsidy to support services for Sidbury. I trust that the County Councillor and MP that represent Sidbury would support my requests.

Sidford Business Park Update

At last week’s Sidmouth Town Council’s Planning Committee, it heard from a land agent who was speaking on behalf of the owners of the Alexandria Industrial Estate in Sidmouth on behalf of a planning application 22/2063/MOU to upgrade the site. The application can be found at https://planning.eastdevon.gov.uk/online-applications/. The owners of this industrial estate are the same ones who own the Sidford Business Park site.

Even before I became the relevant Ward Member, I have long opposed the siting of a business park at Sidford. However, as a Planning Inspector determined it could be built there, I have, since I was elected, sought to ensure that whatever is built there makes the most sympathetic use of the site. Given that East Devon is struggling to find suitable sites for its future housing needs my opinion has been that as this site is no longer an agricultural one but is a brownfield site then we must make the best use we can of it, and housing might be more suitable option.

And so, over the past couple of years I have privately argued for a change of use from it being an industrial site to a housing one. One of the difficulties with my preferred alternative use of the Sidford site is that it is in the Local Plan as designated employment land. If there is to be any chance of persuading the District Council to ever alter its permitted use there would need to be additional employment space created locally. Which takes us back to the Alexandria Industrial Estate planning application.

The Alexandria owners have now acquired land along the Station Road which would allow them to create a new access to the site thus relieving much of the traffic that currently goes along Pathworlands off of Alexandria Road. I say much of the traffic as Sidmouth Tyres and Castle Plant would still need to be accessed via Pathworlands.

The planning application also proposes to upgrade and increase the number of units there. Anyone who has ever visited Alexandria will recognise that it could benefit from being upgraded and modernised. By increasing the number of units there the owners would be increasing the square meterage of available employment land.

The land agent told the Planning Committee that the owners were now able to consider trying to change the use of the Sidford site from 100% employment to something more akin to 25% employment and 75% residential. By aiming to reduce the site from 100% residential would allow the proposed additional employment land at Alexandria, combined with 25% at Sidford to effectively make up for the lost employment land there.

If the changes that the owners are considering at Sidford come to fruition then it seems to me this would be a more appropriate use for that site. Combined, it, along with the additional space at Alexandria would lead to no loss of local employment space and it would assist the District Council in finding another 50 or more residential properties as it struggles to meet government housing targets.

If any of this is to come about there are a number of hurdles that the owners have to jump over. Firstly, they need to obtain District Council endorsement of their Alexandria proposals, then they need to persuade the District Council to change the use of the Sidford site, then presumably they would need to find a developer to either buy that site or work with them in developing it. These are all big hurdles.

I am, in principle, glad that thought is being put into a better use of the Sidford site. Let’s see where all of this goes.