Whistle blown on supermarket

PUBLISHED: 13:40 07 December 2011

Exmouth Rugby Ground

Exmouth Rugby Ground

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The viability of the 'favoured' site for a supermarket - Exmouth's rugby ground - has been put into doubt.

Experts at the Environment Agency (EA) have told district bosses that the ground is a flood risk, possibly unstable and could even be contaminated.

A vision for Exmouth’s future – the town centre and seafront draft masterplan – was commissioned by East Devon District Council (EDDC) and penned by LDA Consultants.

The blueprint, published over the summer, listed a new superstore on the estuaryside as a lynchpin of the plans - with the rugby ground as first choice.

But now concerns by environmental chiefs once again raise the real possibility of a superstore on the site of the nearby leisure centre, almost three years after Asda pulled the plug.

Although the original document refers to ‘stability’ and ‘contamination’ issues – the rugby ground is on an old landfill site – EDDC now has to amend the masterplan.

The masterplan will now state that the ‘existing leisure centre/bus depot site may need to be considered’ - and that the floor level of any development would need to be raised.

This could see the cost of any development by a prospective supermarket chain increase.

EA spokesman Mike Dunning said: “The preferred place is not necessarily the best place.

“Although we would need to make a more detailed assessment, there are a number of issues that would need to be addressed.

“It would be more difficult to build a supermarket on the rugby ground: the ground is prone to flooding, the ground is lower, the nearby wildlife sanctuary and issues over decontamination.”

A spokesman for the district council said: “Any development of a site on the estuary presents us with a variety of challenges - including flood management, habitat and wildlife protection and contamination issues.

“There are mitigations and solutions that we will apply with sensitivity and imagination.”

He said after the draft masterplan was published, new flood risk data was released and the second draft masterplan would reflect that.

“The EA has yet to publish figures for us to consider in detail. We have to consider a variety of issues on any one site, including their concerns, therefore it is premature to speculate without full information about the relative benefits or disadvantages of one site over another.

“Suffice to say that EDDC would not dream of pursuing development without the necessary environmental assessments. We always listen closely to what they have to say and mitigate accordingly.”

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