Axminster “green lung” saved for future generations

Loss of open space would have been over Mayor Andrew Moulding’s dead body

VICTORY is finally in sight in the long-running battle to save one of the last green spaces on Axminster’s southern flank.

Developers are set to formally sign a deal handing over the former St Mary’s Hospital field to the town, for permanent use as a sports ground and play area.

The move follows years of campaigning by local councillors and residents to prevent the important “green lung” from becoming another housing estate.

This week the pledge to retain it as an open space was welcomed by Mayor Andrew Moulding who, around a decade ago, famously said it would be built on only “over my dead body”.

The breakthrough came after Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd bought the land from the health authority - along with adjoining fields off Duke’s Way.

As part of their planning permission to put up some 120 homes – around 40 per cent of them affordable housing – they have agreed the hospital field will not be built on.

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Instead they plan to turn it into a scaled-down soccer pitch for local youngsters and build a community playground there.

Public consultation is set to begin next month to determine exactly how the area will be laid out – in what could become one of Axminster’s major projects to commemorate the Queen’s diamond jubilee next year.

Betterment Director John Loosemore assured The Herald there was now no danger that the land would be built on.

He said: “We are due to lay out the sports pitch and equip and fence the new play area.”

He added that currently there were no plans to put up high fencing around the perimeter but the district council had said it would consider this if balls going over into gardens proved to be a problem.

A spokeswoman for the council confirmed the plan was to safeguard the open space for future generations.

She said: “The Section 106 agreement is still under negotiation so I am unable to give full details at the moment. However, it is the intention of both EDDC and the town council, through the planning process, to protect this site for the benefit of Axminster community.”

Councillor Moulding said the scheme had not been completely finalised but he understood it could include a junior sized football pitch and play area as outlined by Mr Loosemore.

He also confirmed that the possibility of linking the development with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee had been mentioned at the town council. He said an option could be to call it The Jubilee Field.

* St Mary’s field is currently used mostly by dog walkers gaining access through an unlocked gate off Boxfield Road.