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HONITON: Concern over supermarket plans

Friday, 21 February 2014

Honiton town councillors have voiced their concerns about the town’s economic future after the Leader of East Devon District Council, Paul Diviani, confirmed that a major supermarket was ‘chasing’ the Heathpark site in Honiton.
EDDC Cabinet members last week rejected Heathpark as a potential location for its new headquarters, making SkyPark near Exeter Airport the preferred choice. And the suggestion of another supermarket taking its place at Heathpark led one councillor to claim that Honiton had been “sold out” by EDDC.
Speaking at the town council’s February meeting, Councillor Vivienne Ash said: “What benefit is there to having another supermarket in Honiton?
“I think EDDC has sold Honiton out on this one. There has been no consideration at all about what will benefit the town. It is the last thing we need.”
Heathpark had been among the favoured sites for EDDC’s relocation due to its central position within the district, availability of on-site parking and strong transport links.
But the land could now be sold on to commercial interests and councillors are concerned that, with two other supermarkets already built nearby and a Premier Inn hotel at Turk’s Head in the pipeline, the roads may not be able to cope with congestion.
Councillor John Zarczynski said he was concerned about “sticking another supermarket in” because of the potential increase in traffic.
He said the council needed to work with developers to ensure the improvement of infrastructure and development at the same time.
Councillor John Taylor also stressed the need for a roundabout to be constructed at the Turk’s Head junction to manage traffic.
Plans for the sale and redevelopment of Honiton’s Heathpark site were approved by EDDC’s Cabinet, which could also mean the relocation of the East Devon Business Centre – a move described by Councillor Mike Allen as “devastating”.
Councillor Allen said: “My concern is that we demolish a much-needed centre and we do not designate anywhere else to replace it. The town’s only image seems to be: come to Honiton to buy things from supermarkets – which is not the image any of us want to see. I am devastated by this. I really feel that Honiton is being left out of all regeneration that is going on.”
Councillor Diviani insisted that Honiton “would not suffer” as a result of the decision, and stressed that employment opportunities and high-skilled jobs created at SkyPark would benefit the whole district.
He added that EDDC were “trying to get the right balance” but did not want to relocate from one “old, suffering building to another”.
The chairman of Honiton’s Chamber of Commerce, Colin Wright, has also expressed his disappointment with the decision. Addressing the town’s business community at the chamber’s monthly breakfast meeting last week, Mr Wright said he was concerned by the decision to move closer to Exeter.
He said: “Unfortunately Honiton looks to have lost out on the chance to have EDDC’s headquarters in the town, which is a real shame.
“It does concern me personally that the council will be moving to SkyPark because there is a danger of it eventually becoming part of Exeter City Council. Then in ten years’ time we could have a situation where Mid Devon District Council takes over the East Devon area.”

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