ASDA: call for public debate

PUBLISHED: 01:01 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:57 10 June 2010

A lively Annual Exmouth Town Meeting saw residents take their chance to put forward views on Exmouth regeneration. Much of the debate focused on the accountability of council decisions in accepting ASDA as an exclusive partner in developing the estuary si

A lively Annual Exmouth Town Meeting saw residents take their chance to put forward views on Exmouth regeneration.Much of the debate focused on the accountability of council decisions in accepting ASDA as an exclusive partner in developing the estuary side.With more than 50 residents attending the Town Hall on Monday evening, the cry was raised in favour of greater public input on future plans for the town.The council said all matters arising from the meeting would be considered further at a scheduled meeting at the Town Hall on Monday, March 31.ReportsThe mayor's annual report saw Cllr Joy Whipps warn of the danger of "taking all the town and surrounding environment has for granted".The mayor praised public events, such as the Rotary Kite Festival and the ever-growing Exmouth Festival.Town clerk John Wokersien took an opportunity to appraise the public of current regeneration progress - and warned that, with just 450 visitor beds in town, Exmouth must work to maximise tourism potential.He said Exmouth had no option but to develop for the better, saying: "I feel very sorry for young people as there isn't a great future in the town."Referring to the 'King Canute effect' of ignoring the tide of change, the town clerk said: "This is something we all have to address in ourselves. We all live in a changing economy and that is affecting us as a town - we can bury our heads in the sand or get involved. We don't have an option."DemocracyA number of vocal residents remain frustrated over supermarket plans - after a 2005 petition of 11,000 signatures and an Exmouth referendum vote led to calls to save the estuary side from developmentResident Trevor Huggons said: "Perhaps I don't understand democracy, but it seems three things came out of the [2005] regeneration consultation - not on the estuary, not ASDA, and a store under 25,000 square foot."Since we now have ASDA, on the estuary, and probably bigger than 25,000 square foot, on whose authority have elected councillors made their decision?"Former Exmouth Citizens' Forum campaigner Megan Armstrong added: "Over and over again people have said no to a supermarket on the estuary."Cllr Pauline Stott responded: "Any Tom, Dick or Harry can come and put a planning application in and East Devon District Council have to take it forward."The response provoked questions over why the district council then entered into an exclusivity agreement with ASDA and why an application for development of London Inn Car Park had been passed over.Though such questions were for EDDC, the meeting was informed the estuaryside had been earmarked for development in the government-backed Local Plan, while development of the town centre was still under consideration in further regeneration 'phases'.Deputy Mayor Darryl Nicholas said: "The possibility of ASDA is still just that. Until plans are released we will have to wait and see, and there will be consultation. Also, this is a broad scheme, and to fixate on one area is not taking into account the whole town."DebateResidents called for greater public debate. Heather Lane said: "I have read about these things, but never seen a public debate."Jan Pawson added: "This time last year I stood in this room and asked for dialogue between council and citizens. For some years now community groups have tried to be in touch with councillors about regeneration. It seems there has been little progress in this respect." Cllr Nicholas pointed to the town council's proposed community funding through the town precept - inviting the public to submit their own plans. He said: "It really will give people the opportunity to see some money spent on projects they come up with. It doesn't come much fairer than that."Supermarket sizeJean Pettit referred to the town clerk's presentation - where town centre pedestrianisation was tagged as a chance to bring Exmouth a sense of space.Mrs Pettit asked: "How does that fit with a 40,000 square-foot supermarket on the estuary-side?"Further speakers brought up arguments over the size of a supermarket, claiming trade would be sucked from independent businesses.Cllr Sandy Sutton responded by citing the case of Okehampton, saying: "People were very apprehensive, thinking shops would go. Now you only have to go through Okehampton to see how well shops have done."Traffic/parkingTraffic and parking issues remain a key aspect for development of a supermarket.An innovative idea to remove car parking charges was revealed by Ed Hughes, who said: "Once you factor in the cost of machines, collections and audits there is very little profit. By taking charges out, we would be bringing people into the town."Mr Wokersien said the plan would be discussed at town council though, with Britain's council tax capping system, it would be unlikely that car park owners EDDC would remove a chance to earn funds.John Petty told the meeting that county council records showed around 1,000 traffic movements an hour along Marine Way - the route to the possible ASDA.His own survey at Tesco showed a similar amount of vehicles coming in and out, and he questioned how Marine Way could cope with a potential doubling of traffic.Exmouth Community Association chairman Roy Pryke warned that "substantial changes" would need to be made to the plans unveiled this month. He called for a re-routing of Marine Way to link the supermarket to the town centre by foot, and argued the development could provide an opportunity to improve the bus and rail interchange at the entrance to the town.Public benefitThe meeting was warned that Exmouth must remain on its toes to capitalise on the chance of gaining public benefits from a deal with ASDA.The proposals put forward so far by the company and EDDC indicate a development would include a replacement sports centre and library, plus residential apartments.Ed Hughes asked if any effort would be made to chase agreements under the section 106 planning rule still outstanding from the development of Exmouth Quay.He said there was strong evidence that section 106s had not been effectively handled by the district councilThe town clerk replied: "I think it is a fair point. The district now has a new section 106 officer, and I'm sure the town council will support these 106 [agreements]."Mr Pryke urged fair consultation to allow the public to "box clever" to ensure Exmouth gained maximum benefit from a development.He said: "If we don't get genuine consultation soon we could get a negative [public] response. If we don't respond positively, ASDA could end up gaining planning permission on appeal, and we could lose our section 106 agreements.

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