Set realistic new goals for the site

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 February 2009 | UPDATED: 10:31 10 June 2010

The recent decision by ASDA to withdraw from negotiations with the various local authorities is not a reason to celebrate. Their proposal, while ambitious, was just the tonic for putting Exmouth back on the map. It is unfortunate that the credit crunch h

The recent decision by ASDA to withdraw from negotiations with the various local authorities is not a reason to celebrate. Their proposal, while ambitious, was just the tonic for putting Exmouth back on the map. It is unfortunate that the credit crunch has bitten just at a time when property values, both commercial and residential, have declined, making the scheme untenable. We must also heap a little praise on East Devon District Council's officers for not bowing to the inevitable pressure to enter further negotiations with ASDA. The chamber of trade has always maintained the proposed store was too big and, just so that we are clear, the ideal sized store for the estuary site is closer to 28,000 sq ft of selling space. Who says so? A private study carried out by one of the local residents' groups accepted that a food-only supermarket of this size would complement the town, and not compete against it. If the site were developed by a leading supermarket, we are reliably informed this would be of sufficient size to provide effective competition for the Tesco store in Salterton Road. ASDA's withdrawal opens up a number of possibilities. Firstly, a 28,000 sq ft food-only supermarket, instead of a 40,000 sq ft superstore on the site to replace the 1930s' engine sheds, which are an eyesore, a rebuilt leisure centre, and, since there is no money to replace the swimming pool, it will remain untouched. With The Strand redevelopment likely to result in an unacceptable loss of all the short-term parking, it is essential any new development on the site includes adequate provision to cover the town's needs. Likewise, the multi-storey car park on the London Inn site must get the go-ahead. We can relocate the library, and there are many possible sites for the interpretation centre - perhaps a revamped Elizabeth Hall will do? While the councillors are considering their position and pausing for a rethink, to use their words, I would ask they be realistic in setting new goals for this site, and not to go for broke, as they did with ASDA. Let's put a supermarket on the site that is complimentary to what is on offer today, rather than one that might represent an outright threat. Simon Wood,Secretary,Exmouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce

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