Lawyers called in over Axminster homes plan

Town council to seek legal advice in bid to halt Cloakham development

AXMINSTER Town Council will consider mounting a legal challenge to the building of 400 homes at Cloakham Lawns.

Members this week agreed to consult solicitors to determine whether the district council “behaved outside the law” in granting Axminster Carpets planning permission to develop the land.

The decision came at a packed meeting in the Guildhall on Monday when both sides of the homes argument clashed, in a sometimes heated debate.

Opponents condemned the scheme for failing to deliver a north-south bypass which, they warned, would lead to traffic chaos in busy Chard Road and gridlock in the town centre.

Many also feared the town’s infrastructure would not cope with up to 400 more families – with not enough medical facilities, dentists or school places, and an ageing sewerage system.

But supporters claimed the extra homes, built over several years, would boost the town’s prosperity and pave the way for improved facilities – safeguarding the carpet factory’s future and providing more jobs. It would also deliver some 160 much-needed affordable homes.

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Fred Wells, leader of the Save our Parkland campaign, urged the town council to continue its fight against the Cloakham scheme, which he said was opposed by a majority of the residents.

And he revealed that housing developers Persimmon Homes had now said that they were prepared to construct a north-south relief road if they were given the go-ahead to build some 700 to 900 homes in the town. But that would only happen proceed if the Cloakham scheme was rejected, he warned.

Amongst supporters of the Cloakham plan was local resident Alan Beer. He said more houses were badly needed.

“I want my children to stay in the town,” he said. “I don’t want them to have to move to London.

Proposing they seek independent legal advice, town councillor Jerry Walden said they needed to determine whether East Devon Council had “behaved outside the law” in granting outline planning permission for the Cloakham scheme.

A judicial review would cost them money but he stressed: “We have an obligation to the people of this town to make sure everything is done properly and above board. It won’t stop this but it may delay and make it a smaller scheme.”

The council also approved Mr Walden’s proposal to ask East Devon Council to

say upon what evidence it based its decision not to include a north-south relief road in the Local Development Framework.

“How come Persimmon say they can make it work,” he added.