FORDS: ‘Our £5million Sidmouth jobs vision’
11:00 07 June 2012
FORDS of Sidmouth have revealed their vision to invest £5million to create jobs with a sustainable business park “fit for the 21st century”.
Owners of the fourth generation family firm this week spoke publicly for the first time about controversial proposals for an employment site of up to 12 acres between Sidford and Sidbury.
Tim and Mike Ford told the Herald: “This should be a positive thing – we’re trying to bring employment in.
“It’s the sort of thing people should be grabbing.
“If our great grandfather had taken the view that things couldn’t change, how many houses would we have in Sidmouth?
“Sidmouth has to grow – a lot of places were green fields once.”
The Fords say the hub should be dedicated to small businesses looking to expand, would boast a conference and meeting centre, and could be powered and heated with by-product from the nearby sewage works.
“It is all very well allocating the land, but who will actually deliver the project if not us?” said Tim Ford.
The Fords said their proposals came from a Government request for local authorities to put forward areas for housing and employment.
Provision for up to five hectares of employment land north of Sidford has been included in the district council’s draft Local Plan.
Fords say the site they have an option on is the “most suitable in the Sid Valley” to provide future employment opportunities – and they looked at three options.
They added the land in question will be screened by trees and landscaping, buildings will be wood-clad and “aesthetically pleasing”, and sympathetic design concepts would see “environmentally sensitive construction”.
Local tradesmen would be employed to build the business park and a cycle path would be created along its front and side.
The Fords said traffic and flood issues were being investigated.
They say “investment within the community for jobs is crucial to create a healthy economy for Sidmouth”.
Mike Ford added: “We don’t want large retailers - that is the potential benefit of it being owned by a local family.”
Several businesses have expressed their interest in a potential new business park north of Sidford – even though plans are in their infancy.
The early demand was revealed as Mike and Tim Ford said their land at the Alexandria Industrial Estate was “full” with a waiting list for units.
The firm, which has a 70-strong workforce and annual wage bill of more than £1million, would be able to offer around 28 extra positions if allowed to expand to the proposed Sidford site.
The Fords added that nine firms, ranging from sweets, French pharmaceutical, landscaping and clothing companies to builders, had already expressed an interest in the mooted employment land – with another 49 new jobs predicted. The early demand equates to a potential 25,000sq ft of space.
Tim Ford said: “For Alexandria, we have a waiting list. This plan is for the next 15 years and we are in a double dip recession – where is the expansion supposed to go?”
Fords have pointed to nine employment sites, like the Sidmouth Dairy in Temple Street and Anstis Frozen Food in Woolbrook, lost to housing over the last 30 years and not replaced.
They say small businesses are working from home in Sidmouth, without planning permission, because they can’t get a unit nearby.
The Fords said they had attempted to get better access to the Alexandria estate for 15 years to no avail – and a new business park is now “far more suitable”.
“Around 160 kids leave Sidmouth College each year - where are they going to work?” added Tim Ford.
He said that 90 per cent of local companies who want to expand or relocate, surveyed by Fords, would be willing to work with the college to take 16 to 18-year-olds on a day release basis.
Fords can list 30 local tradesmen who have worked or carried out an apprenticeship with them.