Public meeting will debate Axminster development plan

Council says it wants to hear residents’ views before making its decsision - but pressure group speaks out now

A PUBLIC meeting has been called to discuss a controversial blueprint for Axminster’s future development.

East Devon Council’s Draft Local Plan will be put under the spotlight at the gathering in the Guildhall on Wednesday, January 4.

Axminster’s plans committee chairman Chris Scott said the town would make no official comment on the document’s proposals until it consulted with the residents.

And Mayor Andrew Moulding said it was the proper way to proceed.

“We will listen to the public and then we will debate it afterwards and come to a decision about what we do,” he said.

But local campaign group Save of Our Parkland has wasted no time in spelling out its position on the draft plan.

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Spokesman Paul Arnott told town councillors, at their meeting last week, that they needed to speak out soon on a plan which now included provision for a north-south bypass but imposed conditions which effectively kicked it into the long grass.

“Maybe it is time for a referendum to spell out clearly where the town stands,” he said.

This week Mr Arnott revealed that he had written to the district council to challenge its “confused planning proposals” for Axminster.

He told them: “The positive element is that the council have now recognised and acknowledged the need for a relief road between the Chard and Lyme roads to take the heavy traffic out of the town centre.

“However, in an extraordinary move of illogical confusion, EDDC planners have contrived to do everything possible to ensure it is delayed and have encouraged other building development which will aggravate the traffic problems further.

“EDDC seem determined to build on land at Cloakham, currently unallocated for building, outside the current built up area and regarded as an area of important community and environmental value. They seem determined to ignore their own consultation conclusions of a year ago which read ‘The allocation of housing land at Cloakham Lawns was not supported by the public, and the granting of planning permission for the scheme was heavily criticised’.

“The preferred development plan of the town is on the East side of Axminster and will incorporate the relief road within the mixed residential and commercial development. Such plan will allow for easy access onto the A35. The plan for the East is currently being fine-tuned and the developers have confirmed their intention to formally submit it by the late Spring of 2012.

“EDDC continue to show bias towards the Cloakham scheme. They have proposed that the East scheme cannot proceed until there is an improved twice-hourly railway service to Exeter without any logic or evidence that such restrictions should apply to the one scheme on the East and not the other. Fortunately the railway improvements are moving ahead so will not represent any delay to the plans for the East.

“The sum total of both development options is over 1,000 new homes, a growth of over 30 per cent. Such growth is clearly excessive in the short term demand for housing, and so there is now a need to choose between the sites.

“The site on the East offers all the benefits and should take priority, to provide the catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.”

The public meeting will start at 7.15pm.