New leafy Avenues

TWO Avenues streets boasting some of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in Exmouth are set to be given added protection from developers.

District councillors have backed plans to extend the town’s conservation area to include Portland Avenue and Cyprus Road.

Both streets are littered with a number of relatively unspoilt 19th century villas but they fall outside the town’s designated conservation areas drawn up by English Heritage.

So, if there is a bid to convert, adapt, extend or demolish one of these buildings, district planners are often hamstrung.

While their instinct may be to refuse the application to protect the building, they often have little choice but to rubberstamp the proposal because they have no grounds in planning law to refuse.

To do so would leave them open to an appeal – and the tab is picked up East Devon’s taxpayers.

East Devon District Council defines a conservation area as ‘areas of special architectural or historical interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’ – there are currently 33 in East Devon.

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Exmouth has three: Louisa Terrace/The Beacon, Bicton Street and Albion Street Windsor Square which collectively have 134 listed buildings.

The district council is required to periodically review these areas and East Devon’s conservation officer Stephen Guy said: “The process of reviewing the existing areas and designating new ones is well under way.

“Exmouth…has many issues regarding the condition of some buildings, pressure for the redevelopment of sites and the policing of unauthorised works.

“…proposed as an extension to the existing conservation area is the first pre-1890 phase of the Avenues...this is a planned Victorian suburb…it is important… (They) protect the most significant and unspoilt parts of the historic environment.”

District councillor for Littleham and district planner Cllr Mark Williamson said: “This is a safeguard.

“Many of us may recall a few years ago a planning application concerning a villa came before this committee

“It had wonderful original features…and even had original stained glass and we had no alternative but to grant the application.”

The public and the town council will now be consulted on the proposals.