A special meeting over the future of Cranbrook will see a consortium of developers put forward their vision for its town centre.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) Strategic Planning Committee this week agreed to the move to see if members can support the concept behind any proposals.
It was recently announced that plans for a new Morrisons supermarket and significant extra retail, commercial and residential spaces had been put forward by the Cranbrook Consortium.
The Cranberry Farm pub is so far the only building in the ‘town centre’ that has been constructed.
Proposals the consortium are putting forward may not conform to what was originally envisaged for the town centre and would be smaller than initially suggested, councillors were told.
Ed Freeman, service lead for planning strategy and development, said the authority therefore wished to produce its own ‘masterplan’ for the town centre.
This would be in the form of a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which could take up to six months to complete.
Councillor Kevin Blakey, portfolio holder for economy, urged the committee not to go down this route as it runs the risk of leaving the town centre empty for many years.
He added: “The Cranbrook Delivery Board has been in discussions with the Cranbrook Consortium with the object of coordinating delivery of the town centre.
“It has led to a plan which was prepared by the consortium and includes a major brand supermarket and commercial and public space, which is in excess of what is required by the Section 106 agreements and will deliver some of those well before the trigger points that they are legally due.
“The balance of the deal comes from release of extra land for housing development, but the belief is that the town centre does not need to be as big as initially envisaged and otherwise parts of it could be left undeveloped.
“We are on the brink of a deal but it is time limited. The anchor tenant [Morrisons] has six sites they are looking at, but only three will go forward, so they have the option to walk away from anything that is too difficult or lengthy.
“If the discussions collapse, they will move on and a viable town centre for Cranbrook will stall.
“The consortium wish to present full proposals for the committee to consider at the earliest possible date.
“Don’t go down the route of an SPD as it will result in a delay for sure, and runs the risk of leaving the centre of Cranbrook empty for many years to come.”
Cllr Sam Hawkins added: “If we keep taking our time, Cranbrook town centre will be the greenest in the country, because it will just be a field.”
Councillors unanimously agreed that a special meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee needed to be held as soon as possible.
This will enable the consortium’s proposals for the town centre to be assessed and members can decide whether they are strategically right for the town.
A formal planning application would still need to be submitted and approved for any ideas which are backed.
EDDC can still go down the route of preparing a SPD outlining how it would like to see the town centre developed.