Car park plan to remove Axminster’s eyesore ‘wart’

PUBLISHED: 12:09 04 February 2013 | UPDATED: 10:34 05 February 2013

The long-derelict former Websters Garage and florist's shop at Axminster which could be pulled down to make way for a car park. Photo Chris Carson

The long-derelict former Websters Garage and florist's shop at Axminster which could be pulled down to make way for a car park. Photo Chris Carson

Archant

“Breakthrough” planning application submitted to pull down derelict Webster’s Garage and neighbouring empty shop

Axminster‘s biggest town centre eyesore could finally be coming down.

A planning application has been submitted to demolish the long-derelict Webster’s Garage, and neighbouring empty shop, to make way for a temporary car park.

Owners Hallmark Estates say the application seeks to achieve something for Axminster that the town council, its chamber of commerce, general business community and population have wanted for many years – the removal of its most dominant, prominent and harmful ‘wart’.

The move has been hailed as a major breakthrough by campaigners who have been fighting, for some 30 years, to have the site redeveloped.

“Hallelujah” was how town and district councillor Douglas Hull received the news.

“I am absolutely delighted that things are moving at last,” he said. “This is the first step to getting the place built on. By clearing the site they are moving the nasty bits so people will have a better idea what is there for future development.”

Hopes of a mixed homes and shops development on the site - or attracting a major retailer there - have been raised during the past decade but were ended by the recession, which also put paid to a previous consent for a temporary park there.

But the applicants say the opening of a “funding avenue” now makes demolition of the buildings and use of the site for car parking a viable proposition again.

They have told planners that the scheme aims to:

* Rid the town of perhaps its greatest eyesores.

* Remove liabilities particularly in respect of trespass, fly-tipping, vandalism, other anti-social behaviour and arson.

* Ease parking pressures in the town centre and its side streets whilst increasing footfall for the town’s businesses by attracting more people into Axminster’s core.

* Assist in income generation for the applicant company to fund the next stage of the evolution of the site and adjoining land. This will be a process involving many surveys as well as multiple potential designs and drawings along with numerous public and civic pre-submission consultations.

They add: “Finally, and no less importantly from East Devon District Council’s perspective, this temporary-use application beings the ‘Holy Grail’ of the comprehensive regeneration of the commercial heart of one of their major towns a giant step closer.”

Town councillor Mervyn Symes also welcomed the planning application and said it had to be good for the town.

“It is the way forward until such times they decide how they can develop that area. At least it will tidy it up.”

But he said questions might now be asked about the cost of a community mural currently under construction to mask the façade of the building.


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