New move to create vision for future of town

Axminster town centre. Picture: Google Maps

Axminster town centre. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Picture: Google Maps

Ideas that can shape the future of Axminster have been shared at an open forum.

The town council invited members of the public to a virtual meeting earlier this month to inform the planning that can revitalise and improve the town, with a steering group of councillors and residents to be set up next to move things forward.

Among the ideas were pedestrianisation for the town centre, giving run-down areas a facelift and seizing the initiative on the future of transport by making Axminster an electric vehicle charging destination.

The ideas will also help to inform Axminster Town Council’s own Neighbourhood Plan, which it is putting together to work in conjunction with East Devon District Council’s new Local Plan.

Speaking at the meeting, district councillor Paul Hayward promoted the new Resilience, Adaptation and Innovation fund being launched by East Devon District Council with a “large sum” of government funding available.

He said the scheme would “help us come out of the shadow of COVID and start breathing new life into our high street, our town centre, our town and community”.

Cllr Hayward commented: “Axminster is at a crossroads… our town has been waiting patiently for something to change; we waited for an east-west bypassed eventually got one but it took decades, we waited for north-south relief road and we still wait, we waited for Weycroft Bridge and we still wait, we waited for high street funding and we still wait, we waited for a town regeneration board and we still wait, and now we wait for a Neighbourhood Plan and I’m delighted to see that’s progressing.

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“Eventually the time comes for us as a town to realise that we may have to stop waiting for others to deliver and start to be the change that we want to see.”

Those attending the meeting were invited to put forward their ideas for the future of Axminster, with many agreeing that the town could benefit from a number of “quick fixes” as well as longer-term objectives.

These ranged from more community planting and bunting to brighten up Axminster, to pedestrianising the town centre, renovating dilapidated areas such as Websters Garage, and becoming an electric vehicle charging destination.

Although he could not attend the meeting, district councillor Ian Hall sent in a letter about some of the upcoming developments and his own objectives for Axminster.

He said: "The historic Axminster Carpets site could become a mixed development of employment opportunities, a supermarket and blend of mixed tenure homes with easy access to the A35, meaning less congestion in the centre of town.

"I would also hope for a return of the sixth form as the town grows to invest in the future of the town – our young people.

"One of my top priorities is the dynamic passing loop at Whimple, which from my perspective needs to happen as quickly as possible.

"I trust you will press for a quick delivery of this, which will mean a 30 mins service to Exeter and Salisbury. This will mean jobs in Exeter and more affordable homes in easy reach of the city, with a 30 minute service making Axminster more attractive, even with existing housing stock levels.

"We should work proactively with the Police and Crime Commissioner to step up police visibility in the town; to stamp out what is mostly low level crime, in the knowledge that East Devon will get six more uniformed Police Officers & PCSO’s, which is excellent news.

"The Integrated Care System will bring more local health care back to the Axminster Hospital site as Hospital beds, along with rehab beds are something we are continuously lobbying for."

Resident Alan Kennard said Axminster had a “huge opportunity” to implement improvements and could become a tourist destination as it was between two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

His suggestions for the future included a residential field centre in the Trinity area, creating more green spaces in the town centre and tree planting.

However, he expressed concerns about plans for a new Aldi supermarket on the Axminster Carpets industrial site, questioning whether the town could support three supermarkets and the detrimental effect this could have on the Co-operative.

He was also concerned that encouraging electric vehicle charging points could result in residents paving over gardens to create driveways, which could have a significant impact on the appearance of the town.

Are Kennard emphasised that the whole community needed to be consulted on what it wanted, including communicating with the farming community and neighbouring parishes.

One of the main concerns raised at the meeting was the volume and speed of traffic in the town, which residents said was particularly dangerous on the junctions around The George Hotel.

Several suggested that arts of the town centre should be pedestrianised and a community green space could be created on the Websters Garage site, although others raised concerns that a lack of passing traffic may have an effect on local businesses.

Other suggestions included improving connections with Axminster’s ‘satellite communities’, such as Raymonds Hill, with improved pedestrian and cycling paths.

Anyone who would like to share ideas about the future regeneration of Axminster or get involved in the steering committee is asked to email the mayor, Cllr Jill Farrow, on mayor@axminstertowncouncil.gov.uk

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