Question mark over rugby club superstore plan

PUBLISHED: 06:30 02 November 2015

Archant

Long-held plans for a large supermarket on the site of Exmouth Rugby Club will be reconsidered, district bosses have said.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has viewed a store on the site in Royal Avenue as a priority since publishing its Exmouth Masterplan in 2011.

However, the latest draft of EDDC’s Local Plan deletes references to the store, and says a new or refreshed Masterplan will be drawn up.

Exmouth’s mayor has welcomed the rethink, but the chairman of the town’s chamber of commerce says a new large food store is still required, even if a proposed Marks and Spencer store, also in Royal Avenue, is built, as this would not be enough to meet the town’s needs.

When asked about the council’s policy shift, an EDDC spokesman said: “As a council, we need to be adaptable in our approach to our Masterplan and refresh our proposals when we need to.

“For example, we all agree that a large supermarket development on the estuary side is a challenge, so we need to take a look at the location and other town centre sites.”

Reacting to the news, Exmouth Chamber of Commerce chairman Ian MacQueen said: “It would be good if they could make their mind up. Exmouth needs another supermarket. Tesco takes 76 per cent of the total retail spend in Exmouth, and patently overtrades.

“It would be good to have a supermarket on the other side of town. You would argue for something like Asda or Morrisons, which represent a lower price.

“The M&S offer is different. M&S is a smaller-scale operation.

“It’s not like Tesco or Asda, and is more expensive.

“If [a new store] is not on the rugby club, I’d like them to sort it out soon.”

Exmouth Town Council has given its backing in principle to M&S, which is proposing a store on the bus depot site owned by Devon County Council.

EDDC’s decision to reconsider its store plan comes within two months of M&S confirming its plans, but the district council had previously said M&S would not affect its rugby club aspirations.

Reacting to EDDC’s rethink, town mayor Maddy Chapman said: “I think it’s a good idea. Things change; what the residents want, what the town needs.

“The Masterplan has been in position for a good few years and I think it’s good to update, have a look, and see what the town needs. As far as I’m aware, it’s all good news.”

Regarding a change of plan on the supermarket, she said: “That would be fine – we’ll wait and see what happens, how they view that. I think M&S everybody is quite happy and thrilled about.”

The latest draft Local Plan – a blueprint for development in East Devon – also deletes reference to commercial development at the London Inn car park, and the Exmouth Splash leisure zone at Queens Drive – though the latter scheme is progressing.

EDDC’s spokesman said: “We have already delivered the Premier Inn, which is a key priority regeneration project in Exmouth, and work on Mamhead Slipway starts early next year to restore Exmouth to its proper maritime status.

“The Queens Drive proposals are moving forward satisfactorily and will be consulted on in the near future. Exmouth is Devon’s largest town and its regeneration will continue.”

● What do readers think? Email exmouth.letters@archant.co.uk

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