Axminster is the next regeneration town
- Credit: Archant
East Devon District Council will focus on boosting the local economy
Axminster is next in line to be the focus of a regeneration programme.
Designed by East Devon Conservatives, the project’s key aim is to revitalise a town’s economy through a careful blend of council and private sector investment and collaboration.
Now the controlling Tory group on the district authority is to set up a Regeneration Programme Board (RPB) for Axminster, based on the successful model already revitalising Seaton and Exmouth.
Building on the efforts of Axminster Community Enterprise (ACE) to create a Neighbourhood Plan, the regeneration programme will seek to deliver some of its main objectives.
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Membership of the board will include senior district councillors experienced in turning round the fortunes of towns that have slipped behind in the fast-moving world of enterprise, industry, commerce and tourism.
East Devon Conservatives have nominated Andrew Moulding, currently chairman of the Exmouth RPB, to sit on Axminster’s programme board, along with Graham Godbeer, a former chairman of Seaton RPB, and Ian Hall, elected to EDDC last year representing the Axminster Rural ward.
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Cllr Moulding, who is also deputy leader of EDDC, said: “For the past couple of years, a steering group, working under the auspices of ‘Axminster Community Enterprise’ (ACE) has been moving towards the provision of a Neighbourhood Plan. This will assist with the shaping of the town over the next 15 to 20 years.
“But a ‘plan’ is just a blueprint - you also need to be able to deliver the plan and that’s where a Regeneration Programme Board can make all the difference.”
Public consultation on the neighbourhood plan led to the formation of several themed groups, looking at: homes and housing; economy and employment; traffic and transport, environment, heritage and tourism; infrastructure and community facilities; young people.
A progress report to Axminster Town Council in March indicated significant headway has been made and this was followed by a house-to-house questionnaire. Analysis of the mostly supportive 418 responses suggested a more evidence-based report needs to be drawn up by a traffic and transport consultant to help crystallise ideas on the North-South relief road, Weycroft Bridge and the junction at the A35.
Cllr Moulding continued: “We’re currently seeking additional grant aid to support this work. In the past six weeks, Ian Hall, assisted by a number of volunteers and Devon Communities Together, has been conducting a Housing Needs Survey among residents of Axminster. The future of the town and how it grows will particularly benefit young residents and the results of the survey will assist with decisions on the range of housing required for the town.
“East Devon Conservatives are delivering on our pledge to generate a vibrant district economy, with jobs, housing and quality of life at the very top of our agenda.”
Cllr Hall said: “It’s gratifying to know that the east of the district is very much in the forefront of East Devon Conservatives’ thinking. There’s already been a great deal of consultation with residents and this will continue until our objectives are achieved. We need now to formally constitute the regeneration board for Axminster to pave the way for delivery.
“A key issue will be the North-South relief road, which will attract new businesses to Axminster and enable existing firms to expand. This will help deliver our target of one job created for every house built. Axminster needs to grow by focusing on its attributes, the greatest of which are its people.”