Axminster development site put forward in plan for Exeter and East Devon

  Posted: 30.06.20 at 10:55 by Francesca Evans

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A document outlining development proposals for the Greater Exeter area, including East Devon and specifically Axminster, has been published this week.

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP) includes draft planning policies and large scale development options across four council areas - East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge - for the next twenty years up to 2040.

It will tackle big planning issues affecting the Greater Exeter area, of which East Devon is part, and will identify possible development sites across the area, including large regeneration sites in Exeter.

Among the potential development sites to be identified is a 54 hectare area of land between Woodbury Lane and the A35 in Axminster, surrounding Jackleigh Farm and Higher Wyke Farm. This could be earmarked for 540 new houses and small-scale employment opportunities.

This site has been identified for consideration in the GESP because part of it has been put forward by landowners for development and it has been described as a “logical extension to Axminster”.

Other benefits listed include good transport links due to the site’s proximity to Axminster train station and the A35, and the possibility of creating an improved junction on the A35.

It is also with walking distance of town centre facilities, a good network of existing public rights of way and open spaces, and it provides the potential to link to the National Cycle Network Route 2 along Woodbury Lane.

However, the site has a number of sensitivities which development would need to take into account, including a scheduled monument which sits within the site at Woodbury Farm, together with the considerable likelihood of significant related, Roman archaeology beyond the monument boundary.

The former route of the Taunton Stop Line anti-tank ditch would also need careful consideration and there is one listed building within the site, at Higher Wyke Farm.

Any development may impact upon the level of nutrients discharged into the River Axe, which is a Natura 2000 protected wildlife site and may be visible from the Blackdown Hills and East Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The site may also contain great crested newts and other protected species.

A large proportion of the site is likely to be high-grade agricultural land. It also includes a small area affected by flooding and could increase in car-borne traffic to Exeter.

The plan also identifies a 72-hectare are of agricultural land to the east of Honiton for 1,100 new homes and small-scale employment.

East Devon, Exeter, Mid Devon and Teignbridge councils are all considering whether to begin the next round of consultation on the GESP. 

Exeter City Council is the first of the authorities to discuss the proposals at a meeting next Tuesday (July 7th) and they published the GESP document this week.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first opportunity for East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee to meet and view the proposals is on Thursday, July 23rd. The council has committed to nothing more than deciding whether to take part in the consultations on the plan, which would take place from September.

Cllr Paul Arnott, East Devon District Council’s leader, said: “The last councils of 2015-19, and 2019-20, took part in an internal discussion with other councils about co-operating as a joint planning entity.

“With a new administration for 2020-21, this is to be considered at the Strategic Planning Committee on 23rd July in the emerging post COVID-19 context and we will need to assess it anew in light of the possible changed shape of housing need and the economy.

“Our friends at Exeter have begun to discuss the GESP document analysing the call for sites, but of course, until our own Strategic Planning Committee discusses the next steps the district council’s position on going out to consultation is not yet decided.”

Teignbridge District Council will discuss the proposals on Tuesday, July 21st, and Mid Devon District Council on Thursday, August 6th. 

The councils have been asked to carry out the consultation from September, which was originally planned for June, following government advice that planning authorities should continue despite COVID-19.  The consultation would ask for the public to have their say on the draft policies and site options, which would influence the next stage.

Further information about Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is available on the GESP website.

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