Livelihoods 'at risk'

A WOODBURY Salterton seafood business has accused the district council of jeopardising the livelihoods of more than 100 local fishermen, because of a 'technicality.'

A WOODBURY Salterton seafood business has accused the district council of jeopardising the livelihoods of more than 100 local fishermen, because of a 'technicality.'Waterdance Limited, at Greendale Business Park, groups the catches of more than 50 fishing boats across East Devon and the region before agreeing 'the highest possible prices' with supermarkets and factories. A director, Matt Carter, says they protect small fishermen - but, in January, East Devon District Council began enforcement proceedings because they expanded 'outside of the employment zone allocated to the business park.'The district council has said no action will be taken until a planning application has been considered.Mr Carter said there had been no complaints, and they have tried to find a new site: "The company would prefer not to be within a town... (we believe) it would disturb any residents...because of the odour ...the noise of lorries and ...and running noisy commercial fridges 24-hours a day."He added: " site wishes to house the fish business, believing that it may upset its existing tenants. "We want to expand ...but are unable to do this while...(we have) no permanent base or secure future. "This planning technicality is going to strangle our business. The reality is that we cannot find another suitable place for our site, and if we don't, we will be forced to close down. "If that happens, this will have dramatic effects on all of the fishermen we work with and would directly lead to the loss of 10 jobs."Waterdance employee Trish Doble said: "I'm very concerned about my job, as everyone must be at the moment, but it baffles me that the council would take this needless action because of a planning technicality." Skipper of Exmouth boat Our Maria, Neil Burn-Tilbury, said they were 'under intense pressure' because of stock quotas, so the opportunity to catch and sell diverse species was a lifeline: "Fishermen have been forced to diversify and begin to catch alternative species ...which the government has encouraged. "Waterdance has offered us great support over the years and always pays us on time..."A spokesman for the district council said: "The council contacted them in September 2007 when their unauthorised expansion on to agricultural land came to light."We served an enforcement notice for the unauthorised change of use of the land in October 2008 and, as a result, the company has submitted a retrospective application for the 'retention of the use of land for the storage and distribution of shellfish and the siting of ancillary containers and portable units for a temporary period of three years'."This application is currently being considered and, whilst a decision is pending, no further enforcement action will be taken. Once the application is determined, the council will consider whether to withdraw the enforcement notice or pursue any unauthorised use, as appropriate.

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