Plans for £40million Exeter retail park, featuring M&S, Boots and McDonald’s, are back in business

A bid to build a £40million retail park boasting M&S, Next, Boots, Costa and McDonald’s stores on the outskirts of Exeter is back in business. 

The CPG scheme for the Moor Exchange has been resubmitted following the after the city council could not decide the fate of a near-identical scheme in July.

At that meeting, when two other retail parks were refused, councillors voted by seven votes to four against a recommendation of officers to approve the plans.

But members then failed to actually vote on reasons for refusal, leaving CPG deciding that the application was undetermined.

A letter with the resubmitted application says that the committee was minded to refuse planning permission without clear and substantive reasons for not following officers’ advice and recommendation.

It adds: “That was a most unsatisfactory outcome for both the council and my clients, and for which reason my clients decided that the application should remain undetermined, and therefore they had no option but to withdraw it.”

Two previous bids to build on the plot – on land north of Honiton Road and west of Fitzroy Road near the Sowton Industrial Estate – had been refused; one  in November 2015 and a second, smaller scheme in August 2018.

The third scheme, smaller again, and one that included ‘more facilities for the local community’, was left undetermined by July’s meeting.

This fourth scheme still includes Next, M&S Simply Food, Boots and McDonald’s and Costa drive-thrus as tenants.

The other eight units would be filled with a yet-to-be-named discount food retailer, a post office, a newsagent, a bank, a gym, a restaurant, a hot food takeaway unit and a shop.

Overall floorspace of the newly-proposed development has been reduced by 13 per cent from the rejected August 2018 scheme.

A statement with the application adds: “There is now greater acknowledgement of the imperative to deliver a hub of facilities to serve the existing and future residential and business communities on the east side of Exeter and that Moor Exchange is the most appropriate site and realistic opportunity for delivering such a hub.

“The consequences of not doing so will be further expenditure that would otherwise be made in Exeter being lost to the internet, and an increase in vehicle miles consequent upon the need to travel to more distant and disparate facilities with associated negative impacts in terms of traffic congestion and air quality.

“The application proposals will deliver a high-quality hub of facilities of a scale that is necessary to achieve a viable and deliverable scheme that will fulfil its intended purposes, that will raise the benchmark standard of retail and related provision on the east side of Exeter.”

When the Moor Exchange scheme was discussed by planners in July, officers told the committee it would have ‘a relatively minor impact on the city centre, and wouldn’t meet a test to refuse an application’.

They added that, although it was not ‘a local centre’ as it has a greater scale, it can perform ‘a local centre function’.

That bid had been recommended for approval as it was considered the most sustainable out of the three applications considered.

It deemed it was the nearest one to housing being built at Hill Barton Vale, has the most balanced mix of uses and the best public transport accessibility to the city centre, and would not have a significant impact on the vitality and viability of the city centre or St Thomas district centre.

Applications for the B&Q site, off Avocet Road, put in by British Land Retail Warehouses Ltd, and the WPD depot site, off Moor Lane, put in by Richard Walker Developments Ltd, were refused at that meeting.

A scheme for eight new retail units along with three food and drink restaurants at the HQ of Devon and Cornwall Police at Middlemoor was withdrawn ahead of the talks.

Exeter City Council will determine the fate of the application at a later date.

Bid to turn Exeter ambulance station into student flats is unveiled