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2015 VGS report from Town Council TAFF on neighbourhood plan

Next stage in considering feasibility of a NP for Sidmouth

On Monday this week (7th Sept), the Town Council invited representatives from the SVA, the Chamber of Commerce and the VGS to its committee looking at putting a Neighbourhood Plan together.


This follows on from the first report delivered to the council putting forward proposals for how such a plan could be put together:


Futures Forum: Neighbourhood planning @ Sidmouth Town Council >>> meeting Monday 6th July


This is the paper presented by the VGS:



Vision Group for Sidmouth  for the sustainable development of town and valley






Incorporating Sidmouth Science Festival, Sid Energy, Futures Forum, Farmers’ Market, Café Scientifique, Climate Week etc.


Developing a local response to the global challenge of unsustainable and unprecedented environmental change.




  1. The VGS welcomes the initiative of the Town Council and endorses the proposals outlined by Councillor Cole at the 6 July meeting.
  2. The Vision Group does not have financial assets but can offer its expertise in consultation processes for public engagement to motivate broad participation in active citizenship.
  3. We have found that donated time and materials from Sidmouth’s people can minimise the cost of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan.
  4. VGS is gratified to be included as a “stakeholder” early in the process of scoping the NP. We would emphasise the need to extend the range of consultation to ensure the inclusive involvement of all our neighbours as the project unfolds.
  5. To ensure excellent communication, clear mission focus and transparent budget controls, we recommend the early appointment of an experienced project manager to steer the process of generating a Neighbourhood Plan.
  6. Clarification is needed on the relationship between the emerging EDDC Local Plan, EDDC’s proposed Village Plan for Sidbury, and the Town Council’s developing NP for the entire Sidmouth Civil Parish.
  7. No outcomes from the consultative process should be pre-determined; and we recognise that the NP focus is on land use and design issues. However, some of the priorities that have emerged from our previous consultative processes include:

flood defences, beach management, food security, water and sewerage security, public transport, the conservation and enhancement of the AONB and our marine and other environmental assets and the local agriculture, tourism, retail, catering and care provision industries, the introduction of new employment opportunities, traffic management, cycling enhancement, affordable housing, the regeneration of Port Royal, health provision, and continuing education in the valley.



And this is the report from chair of the Futures Forum of the VGS who attended the meeting:



Robert’s notes for VGS Coordination Team : 7th Sept meeting


Cllr Louise Cole as Chair:

STC is currently scoping the NP project with a view to deciding whether or not we will develop a NP.


Is it worth it? What will it cost? How long will it take? What benefits are there for the town and valley? What can stakeholder groups offer?


Sceptic Cllr Ian Barlow suggests NP may be just a profit-centre for EDDC to get government funding to do an exercise that has no intrinsic value. There is a task to convince Councillors and citizens of its value before it can start.


Richard Thurlow (SVA) Richard Eley (Ch of C) and Robert Crick (VGS) gave their views and offered support. VGS paper was tabled.


General sense that cost might be about £20k; funding would come from Central Govt and EDDC and an enhanced CIL and possibly from KOF. To be done as fast as possible in a year to 18 months.


Outcome will have statutory power to guide, and to hold accountable, the District Planning Department. But we will have to be vigilant in monitoring how they use it.


Legacy value from the exercise will include an interactive website.


General sense that there is an appetite, even an enthusiasm, for this work in the town, in spite of previous disappointments (and betrayals!), though past experience has shown us gaps in our communication processes and in our procedures and in our agenda, from which we may learn for a more successful outcome this time around.


Sidbury village plan is also to be developed by EDDC. Lympstone plan shows we can focus on land use and design but also include a comprehensive community action plan, (preferably not referred to patronisingly as a “wishlist of pet schemes”!)


On behalf of VGS, I suggested another legacy from the process could be the engagement of active citizens in several hubs in the valley, not just in reaction to threats (as at Cliff Road and Knowle and Sidford cross in recent years) but also in constructive and creative conversations and community actions (as with the Arboretum, Friends of the Byes, Science Festival, Sid Energy, SeaFest, Hopper Bus, PPP etc)


I added that Sidmouth being much bigger than a village, requires many conversations with many groups and in several locations. This will require a team of volunteers with a common purpose and methodology. From this a town-wide questionnaire could be generated.


I suggested that a poll of public opinion without active engagement is analogous to a health centre check on your weight, blood pressure etc. It can diagnose problems and disagreements in the community. Active community engagement with structured conversations is analogous to changing your diet and exercise regime.


So I hoped we might anticipate a positive consensus with high levels of participation within the town in the final referendum if we have previously used the right procedures for inclusive engagement.


TAFF members Michael Earthey, Ian Barlow, Paul Wright, Kelvin Dent, Louise Cole continued their deliberations.


Robert Crick