Affordable homes for Axminster are set to make up half of a major development planned for the town

Affordable homes, football club improvements and flooding concerns will be thrashed out amid plans for a new development to live and work in Axminster.

Plans for a major 146-home scheme and employment site in Axminster are set to be debated next week, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

Councillors at East Devon District Council will discuss whether to grant outline planning permission for the proposal, which would also include improvements to Axminster Football Club.

Even though the site, on land adjacent to Cloakham Lawn and Chard Road, is not covered by the area’s local plan, council officers have suggested that it is a “good site for development” and that there are “significant material considerations which indicate that permission be granted”.

One of its purported benefits is that half the scheme would be affordable housing, something the town continues to lack.

The so-called Strategy 20 created proposals for the urban extension to the east of Axminster, but council officers have stated that has “not delivered what was proposed to be a significant amount of housing” – namely 850 homes, up from an initial suggestion of 650.

The lack of success there, planning officers suggested, went in this application’s favour.

“This is a very significant issue undermining the spatial strategy of the local plan and potentially leaving many people in Axminster with nowhere to live and undermining sustainability of the settlement,” a report prepared for Councillors said.

“It is therefore considered that significant weight should be afforded to the proposed housing.”

Councillor Paul Hayward (Independent, Axminster) has said he cannot support the scheme.

“The current moratorium on development in the Axe Valley Catchment due to Natural England warnings on nitrate and phosphate loading in the River Axe appears contrary to what is proposed here, on a site barely metres from the river in question,” he said.

“That alone would lead me to support refusal.

“Also, the application skirts over the issue of environmental impact to habitat and species nearby, and I would need to see a far more robust and demonstrative approach to these issues before giving any amended plans more consideration.”

He also highlighted the potential impact on nearby Weycroft Bridge from a marked increase in traffic if the homes were built, noting its existing “structural integrity problems”.

Cllr Hayward, who declared an interest given that he lives in the estate to the south of the proposed scheme, added that he was concerned about the potential for increased flooding in communities downhill from the new homes, and that he wanted to see “stronger assurances” from the developer about the infrastructure that is proposed as part of the application.

It is noted in the report that the proposed improvements to the football club do not fall under any planning policy, and so rely on the goodwill of the applicant to follow them through.

The plans state that drainage improvement works would be carried out on the football club’s training pitch, as well as the installation of floodlights and a six-metre high ballstop net.

In terms of the employment land, this would be roughly two acres of commercial or business space, however, officers do state that general industrial, and storage and distribution, are the most in-demand locally, however, the application does not appear to be proposing that.

“The team do state that the market for office uses (Class E) is somewhat reduced in this area presently and it would be unfortunate if this land was instead turned over to housing instead in the future,” officers added.

East Devon’s planning committee meets on Tuesday, May 21 to discuss the application.

 

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