M&S store: EDDC told to ‘push off’
PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 October 2015
Town hall chiefs have sprung to the defence of Marks & Spencer, after district bosses suggested its proposed Exmouth store should be on a different site – one owned by the district council.
Exmouth Town Council this week voted to support the principle of an M&S food store on the site of the bus depot on Royal Avenue.
But town councillors were then concerned to hear that a letter from a ‘members’ advisory panel’ at East Devon District Council – which has long-intended for a supermarket to be built on the nearby Exmouth Rugby Club site, which it owns – had criticised the M&S proposal, which is for a site owned by Devon County Council.
Councillor Bill Nash told the town council’s regeneration and general purposes committee: “The panel has written to the [district] councillors of town ward and it is a little disturbing.
“The report at the moment is saying that they don’t think it’s the right site, and they’d prefer to see Marks & Spencer on the rugby ground or the London Inn site. Well, that ain’t on – M&S don’t want that.”
Cllr Nash said EDDC had also criticised the building’s design, and a lack of electric car charging points in the proposed car park, and said it may be off-putting for people arriving by train to catch buses.
In response, town mayor Councillor Maddie Chapman said: “I think they’ve got a damn cheek, because it’s county council land that they’ve [M&S] put forward, and the county council want to build on it.
“It’s not up to East Devon saying ‘You can’t build on county council land, you can build on ours’, without saying anything to the town council.
“They need to be told ‘push off’ - so they will be.”
Town councillors were also concerned that no Exmouth councillors were at the EDDC advisory panel meeting, with Councillor Pat Graham saying she and other town ward district councillors had been invited, but at very short notice.
An EDDC spokesman said: “East Devon District Council very much welcomes Marks & Spencer’s interest in Exmouth.
“The comments of the council’s members’ advisory panel that were raised at the town council meeting were draft comments sent to the ward members who, though invited to the panel meeting, were unable to attend.
“We look forward to receiving their views so that these can inform the final comments of the panel that will then be sent to the developer. In any event, these comments will not tie the council to any decision on this matter in future.
“It’s unhelpful to suggest that the district council is promoting its own land. The council has done a lot of work in consultation with the community on plans to develop key sites in the town, including developing a supermarket and improved transport facilities.
“The council is simply seeking to implement these plans and enable the best development possible that accords with planning policy and meets the needs of the town.”
The spokesman also said town ward councillors had been given six weeks’ notice of the meeting date.
M&S will hold a public consultation event about its plans at the town hall on October 16, between 11am and 7pm.