Members of East Devon Strategic Planning Committee resolved to endorse a masterplan for the Axminster urban extension subject to minor changes under delegated authority

At a meeting of East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on Tuesday 29 January 2019, members resolved to endorse a masterplan for the eastern urban extension of Axminster.

The committee debated the item for over two hours and heard from nine concerned local residents and a representative of Persimmon Homes who spoke in support of the masterplan.

Concerns expressed at the meeting by residents included issues over whether the proposed additional 200 homes, which are over and above those allocated in the Local Plan, were needed, whether they would meet the needs of local people, whether the masterplan would genuinely address traffic problems in the town and whether it was worth the environmental cost.

The Committee also heard from Axminster Town ward member, Councillor Andrew Moulding, who highlighted the long history to the urban extension proposals, which originated in the 1990s. Cllr Moulding expressed his support for the masterplan, which he said was vital in securing the delivery of the relief road.

Committee members debated these points and others, as well as seeking reassurance from officers about how robust the process of assessing the site and formulating the masterplan had been. After considering these issues at length members concluded that the scale of development proposed in the masterplan was appropriate and that the masterplan would provide a good template for more detailed discussions through the consideration of planning applications for the site, which would resolve many of the more detailed concerns raised by residents.

Planning officers assured members that wider issues associated with traffic at Weycroft Bridge to the north of the proposed relief road and the junction with the A35 to the south of the relief road were being looked at with Devon County Council as highway authority. Members were also assured that it is the council’s intention to deliver the relief road in the early stages of development, to help alleviate the traffic and pollution issues in the town, prior to the majority of the new homes being built.

Members resolved to endorse the masterplan by a vote of 11 votes in favour with one abstention. No members voted against endorsement of the plan.  

The masterplan has been prepared by consultants working on behalf of the council in partnership with the landowners/developers - The Crown Estate and Persimmon Homes. The masterplan has been prepared following consultation events last July and December and provides a template for development of the area to include a mixture of housing, employment and community uses as well as a range of public open spaces and the proposed north/south relief road. The masterplan aims to determine a distribution of uses across the site, the route of the relief road and to provide design guidance for developers to follow when submitting planning applications on the site. This includes different character areas within the site to ensure that the development forms an attractive neighbourhood for residents.

The masterplan will now form a key document in helping the council to consider planning applications for the site, which have already been received from Persimmon homes, as well as those that will follow from the Crown Estate in the spring. The council’s cabinet has already agreed in principle to support borrowing to enable the up-front delivery of the road subject to a detailed proposal being presented and agreed. This work will now be progressed off the back of the masterplan work to enable members to consider a detailed proposal for the borrowing arrangements in due course.

Councillor Ian Hall, East Devon District Council’s Axminster Rural ward member, said:

I am glad that residents had an opportunity to express their concerns to the committee and hopefully through the debate it was clear that members understood the issues being raised and accepted that there is still a lot more work to be done. I am however really pleased that the Members of Strategic Planning Committee could see the merit in having the masterplan in place for the urban extension and that this will help to shape a bright and prosperous future for Axminster.

The full report can be viewed within the agenda for Strategic Planning Committee, which is on the East Devon website.