A multi-million-pound bid to replace a listed building in the heart of Exmouth with 20 apartments and a pair of shops has failed to win over town councillors.
The mooted development would see the premises behind Tower Street Methodist Church part-demolished, redeveloped and converted into dwellings and retail space.
But civic leaders said last night (Monday) the plot – once home to the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade and a Sunday school – still has ‘terrific value for the community’.
Applicant Hansard Ltd says the four buildings are in ‘significant disrepair’ and its proposal ‘represents a multi-million-pound investment in Exmouth’.
The church itself does not form any part of the scheme.
Exmouth Town Council’s planning committee voted to oppose the plans.
Members ruled the proposed apartments and shops would be out-of-keeping with the surrounding area due to their size and mass.
Councillor Brian Bailey said: “In principal, I’ve got no objections to development on this site, however, I feel this is not the right development for this site.
“It’s too high, it’s not complimentary to the listed building. And unlike some, I feel there should be some sort of car parking there.”
Cllr Fred Caygill said: “The whole history of this church is tantamount to Exmouth. It’s an important feature of the town centre.”
He said of the state of the current premises earmarked for redevelopment: “Of course, if you don’t do anything to a building it’s going to fall into disrepair.
“I do find it a bit concerning in that no-one seems to bother in the fact that the owners of a Grade II listed building in a conservation area are doing nothing about it.
“Our local authority should hold their head in shame for the fact that they allow a building such as this to fall into disrepair.”
He added: “The building itself has got terrific value for the community.”
Cllr Caygill said he would like to see the town council apply for it to become an asset of community value.
“It’s got so much potential,” he added.
Cllr Brian Toye branded the proposed apartment blocks ‘horrible’ and ‘ugly’.
Councillor Tim Dumper said: “For such an important site in the middle of the town, an historic and apparently archaeological site as well, we need to be absolutely clear that this is appropriate in all ways.”
The project would see the full demolition of the former Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade and infill link buildings and partial demolition of the former Sunday school.
The planning application states: “Very little of the built extensions element of the building remains fit for purpose and the recommendation would be that the extension has exceeded its design life and the most cost-effective solution would be to demolish all, beyond the main existing church structure.”
It adds: “The proposals would provide contemporary designed, purpose-built residential accommodation, associated amenity services and open spaces to provide an attractive living environment for what represents a multi-million-pound investment in Exmouth.
“A number of additional benefits will be increasing vibrancy, cohesiveness and the cultural functions of Exmouth.
“These benefits will also positively impact upon the town by increasing evening activity and vibrancy.”
East Devon District Council (EDDC) will decide the fate of the application.