Cue for economic growth and cultural prosperity

OUTLINE planning permission has been granted for the biggest ever commercial scheme handled by East Devon District Council.

OUTLINE planning permission has been granted for the biggest ever commercial scheme handled by East Devon District Council.

The authority has been given the green light to pursue plans to develop a major freight depot in the west end of the district, after a "marathon", seven-year journey through the planning process.

News of the scheme's success was described as "an early Christmas present" and a "landmark day" by council chiefs at the Knowle.

They are certain the development will set the tone for economic growth and cultural prosperity for years to come.

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Up to 710 jobs could be created by the development, not counting jobs for construction workers during the building phase.

Work on part of the development is expected to start some time this year (2008).

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Councillor Ray Franklin, East Devon District Council's portfolio holder for strategic planning and regeneration, said: "This is a landmark day for all those involved in a number of interrelated schemes that will set the tone for the economic and cultural prosperity of our community and the rest of the region in years to come.

"The depot has the potential to be of national and even international significance.

"The planning process has been a marathon and has taken lots of hard work and a steady resolve. But what a Christmas present."

Janthia Algate, East Devon District Council's major projects manager, said: "A number of jobs will obviously be created in the construction industry during the site construction period, although the actual requirements are not yet known.

"Once operational, it is expected that the total anticipated employment within the freight transfer terminal would be 40 people and, within phase 1 of the freight distribution centre, in the range of 620 to 710 people"

In a statement, issued on Christmas Eve, the council announced: "And there's more good news, with the signing of a legal agreement freeing up land needed for the Clyst Honiton by-pass - one of the keys to the building of the new community at Cranbrook."

The intermodal freight facility and distribution centre will be developed on land close to Exeter airport and is the first of a number of major schemes planned for the area to get the go-ahead.

Outstanding issues connected to the site were settled with the signing of a Section 106 Agreement last week.

Once built, the depot will allow freight to be transported by rail close to Exeter. It will then be onward shipped by road into the city and throughout the South West, with the potential of becoming a major commercial artery into the region.

Goods made in Devon and Cornwall will be distributed to other parts of the UK and beyond via the centre and also the nearby airport.

Planning permission for the freight depot was first sought in July 2000, meaning the proposal has taken over seven years to progress through a complex planning process.

It is understood that The Church Commissioners, who own the land, will now seek a suitable buyer.

"EDDC will work with any new owner on the detail of the design, including the building of a railhead into the site, extensive landscaping on the eastern boundary to screen the depot long-term and, of course, the detail of warehousing and other buildings on the site," said a council spokesperson.

The site of the proposed depot was identified as favourite in a report from the South West and South Wales Multi-Modal Study (SWARMMS).

The report looked at five other sites - in Bath, Taunton, Westbury, Plymouth and Roche, Cornwall.

A number of freight industry organisations, including Network Rail and the Strategic Rail Authority, also favoured the Exeter site.

It was reported that it would provide "the best sustainable, long-term integrated transport solution for this part of the region".

The South West Regional Development Agency said: "The proposal will help to deliver a number of key regional activities, identified in the Regional Economic Strategy.

"This will help to develop the role of Exeter as a Principal Urban Area and a main centre for economic, cultural and academic activity in the region.

"The infrastructure will support business success by improving both national and international links for freight transfer.

"The facility will also deliver an essential piece of transportation infrastructure that will reduce the need for commercial freight to travel by road."

The granting of outline planning permission means that phase one of the depot, on a 20 hectare site at Hayes Farm, to the north of Clyst Honiton, can be started in 2008.

The rest of the 65 hectare site will be developed later.

An environmental impact assessment will have to be carried out before work can begin.

OTHER major schemes being pursued by East Devon District Council include the development of Cranbrook, Skypark and the University of Exeter Science Park.

Improvements to Exeter Airport are also being considered.

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