Axminster Masterplan goes back to the drawing board

PUBLISHED: 07:01 05 December 2019

The centre of Axminster's  urban extenion in the original Masterplan. Picture; EDDC

The centre of Axminster's urban extenion in the original Masterplan. Picture; EDDC

Archant

East Devon District Council is to consider revising its plans to build up to 850 new homes as part of a massive urban extension on Axminster’s eastern flank.

Moves to progress the town's Masterplan - stalled because of problems in funding the vital inner relief road - will be debated at a key meeting of EDDC's Strategic Planning Committee on Monday (December 9).

The scheme was sent back to the drawing board earlier this year when Homes England announced that the £10 million it agreed to provide towards the north-south bypass was no longer a grant - but a loan.

The Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) money was a key element of the Masterplan. EDDC had agreed to borrow the remaining £7 million for the relief road, seen as an integral part of the urban extension.

The funding u-turn means developers will have to repay the £10million out of profits from new housing developments.

Now the distinct council has been told action needs to be taken by December 16 as Homes England has said that the HIF funding may be withdrawn if a contract is not entered into by that date.

A report to the committee says: "The current masterplan was produced on the basis of the HIF monies being made available as traditional grant funding. There would be merit in revisiting the masterplan and considering what could be achieved without the HIF monies.

"Options may exist around further increasing the amount of development proposed ion order to being in additional resources to fund the relief road or having a structured discussion around hoe infrastructure requirements across the site could be revisited to enable the delivery of the relief road.

"Officers are, however, concerned that this may not yield any new ideas and trying to free up £10million would be very difficult without heavily compromising the development.

"Past work has also already shown that there is a limit to the impact that expanding the site would have on viability as there is only so many homes needed in the town each year."

The committee is recommended to:

Accept that it is not going to be possible to progress with the Housing Infrastructure Fund bid as things stand and that the offer is likely to be withdrawn unless Homes England changes its position on land values

Re-engage the consultants for the Axminster Urban Extension Masterplan to:

Review options to enable as much of the development in the masterplan to proceed accepting that this would be ahead of delivery of the relief road in its entirety.

Update the viability of the project to reflect the latest cost estimates and funding position.

Consider the re-phasing of the development in light of the failure of the HIF bid.

Agree that a Housing Delivery Action Plan be produced to consider how to bolster the housing land supply position in the district and that this be considered by Strategic Planning Committee alongside a revised Axminster Masterplan.


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