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AXMINSTER:Traders back eyesore campaign

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A campaign to rejuvenate a derelict plot in Axminster town centre is gathering momentum despite planning officers’ objections.
Property agent Graham Barton says there is overwhelming support from the trading community and shoppers for creating a temporary car park to get rid of the Webster’s Garge eyesore which has blighted Axminster for more than 30 years..
He represents the owners of the site, the Plymouth-based Hallmark Estates, and took to the streets on Saturday to seek support after East Devon District Council (EDDC) officers recommended refusal.
Hallmark Estates wants to turn the dilapidated old Webster’s site into a car park until a permanent solution is found for the prime trading site.
But EDDC’s conservation team objected because it wants to retain the adjacent and dilapidated former Busy Bee building, saying it makes “a positive contribution to the significance of the conservation area” although it is not listed, a decision which had been met with incredulity in some Axminster quarters.
Planning officers agreed with the conservation officers and have recommended members of the Development Management Committee to refuse the application when they meet on Tuesday, March 4th.
‘Idiotic investment’
Mr Barton said retaining the building would mean “enormous expense” and would be “an idiotic investment”
He added: “Speaking as the son of a dentist. When you’ve got a disintegrating tooth you don’t just leave it decaying to get even worse, you take it out, put on a temporary dressing and then attend to how best to permanently replace it.
“Naturally there’s a commercial interest in achieving a consent but somehow it’s become more than this.
“I can’t help thinking of the potentially thousands of people who would wake-up on the morning of Wednesday, March 5th with the broadest of grins on their faces if the day before saw their town being allowed to take the biggest single step imaginable towards rejuvenation.”
He is in the process of lobbying DMC members and will also speak in person at the DMC meeting.
Apart from losing the building, planning officers also say its removal would result in “a gap in the street scene”.
Mr Barton said: “It wouldn’t just be a gap by any means.
“It would be somewhere furnished with benching and lighting for people to sit and meet with public art installations to add to the detail of the vicinity.”
Planning officers also objected because the plan involves removal of trees without replacement planting, and they say the applicant has failed to provide an adequate protected species survey.
When asked when he first heard about the tree and protected species concerns, Mr Barton said: “When I read the recommendation.”

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