£40m retail park recommended for site on outskirts of Exeter

It could be fourth time lucky for plans for a new £40m retail park on the outskirts of Exeter.

The CPG scheme for the Moor Exchange includes Next, M&S Simply Food, Boots, a drive-through McDonalds, a drive-through Costa 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.

Twice before Exeter City Council planners rejected the scheme, while last summer councillors voted against approving the plans but failed to vote on reasons for refusal – leaving CPG deciding that the application was undetermined.

That application has since been resubmitted and officers are once again recommending that councillors give the scheme the thumbs up when the committee meets on Monday, January 6.

Recommending approval, the report of officers says: “The proposal will provide a mixed-use hub for the area where there is clearly a gap in provision when comparing the spatial distribution of other centres in the city. This will help fulfil the vision of the masterplan and takes into account the guidance on good design in the recently published National Design Guide.

“If the proposal is turned down, there is a risk that no mixed use hub will be provided for the new community or business community in the area.”

A statement with the application had said: “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 wasn’t “a local centre” as it has a greater scale, it can perform “a local centre function.”

Officers had recommended it be approved then, but councillors voted by seven votes to four against a recommendation of officers to approve the plans.

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

Two previous plans to build on the Moor Exchange site on land North of Honiton Road and West of Fitzroy Road, near the Sowton Industrial Estate had been refused by planners – one back 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.

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 in July, while 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 meeting.

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