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Voices of concern to speak as one on overdevelopment

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

By Fran McElhone

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A CONSORTIUM of groups and individuals across East Devon has been formed to voice concerns about the workings of East Devon District Council and future "overdevelopment" of the region.

The pressure group, called the East Devon Alliance, was formed at an initial meeting called by Sidmouth residents and members of campaign group, Save Our Sidmouth, Mike Temple and Kelvin Dent.

SOS was originally founded to protect Sidmouth from what members claim will be overdevelopment of the town and to oppose the council's proposals to relocate to Honiton and sell off part of the parkland at its headquarters at Knowle for redevelopment.

But after a rally organised by the group in November in protest against the authority's plans for development across the district attracted more than 4,000 people, Mr Temple and Mr Dent suggested the formation of an alliance bringing various groups and individuals with concerns, together.

The alliance is particularly concerned about the impact of the council's lack of five-year housing land supply.

As part of the Government's National Planning Policy Framework document, a five-year land supply with 20 per cent buffer, is required.

The group is also concerned about the impact of the NPPF, which has a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

"There is discontent across the district," Mr Temple said. "This is about getting together to confront the issues we are all concerned about.

"The aim was to gauge how best to address our concerns. I wanted to avoid groups only fighting their own corners so a list of issues was drawn up town by town, village by village, to consider ways we can work together."

Mr Temple was keen to stress that the group is in favour of development, "but that which is sensitive to the environment and of appropriate scale".

"We're against development on greenfield sites or on important parkland, like that at Knowle, or on land designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty," he added. "And against massive development which could swamp existing villages.

"We are also against developments which have dubious economic viability such as the council's proposed move from Sidmouth to Honiton.

"We believe that the planning ethos and process at the council is at the very least flawed, from the way it engages with the public and the way meetings are conducted. We are here to consider change and reform of the council's procedures."

On the back of the meeting several working parties will be set up on various subject areas including elections, including the possibility of the election of a district mayor, the role of the East Devon Business Forum and the Task and Finish Forum set up to scrutinise the workings of the forum, publicity campaigns and analysis of Freedom of Information Requests and complaints against the council.

Cllr Paul Diviani, leader of the council, added: "We are open to constructive, well-informed discussion and debate on things that are important to local people. Our door is always open. We have the difficult and often thankless job of dealing with the hard facts and realities we face. This means taking informed decisions for the general good, being realistic and taking on board all the rules, regulations, laws and financial realities which apply. I hope this pressure group is willing to engage on those terms and offer practical, open minded dialogue."

The next meeting of the alliance is scheduled for March 9. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Mr Temple by emailing michael.temple@btinternet.com

Alternatively visit www.save oursidmouth.com

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