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Friday, 17 January 2014

EDDC officers oppose demolition of this eyesore

Revised plans for a temporary car park on the derelict Webster’s Garage site in Axminster are in jeopardy because a council conservation team wants to save the adjoining former premises of Busy Bee.
Planning officers at East Devon District Council are yet to make a recommendation, but the EDDC conservation team’s desire to save the building is seen as a potential threat to the car park project.
The conservation officers consider the unsightly building to be “a positive contribution to the significance of the conservation area” and ARE opposing its demolition.
Their viewpoint, never expressed publicly despite years of negotiation, has surprised the developers and angered local councillors and traders.
Graham Barton, who acts on behalf of Plymouth-based Webster’s owner Hallmark Estates, said: “This standpoint could well result in a recommendation for refusal being put to the Development Management Committee.
“I won’t labour the applicant’s point of view except to politely say, you could have knocked them over with a feather.
“We’ve literally never heard this point of view from any other source. The total reverse has always been the consensus from every other person or body ever spoken with or consulted.”
As previously reported, Hallmark Estates submitted a planning application last year, seeking permission to provide parking space for 60 cars, five motorcycles and five bicycles for up to five years.
The car park would be a temporary measure until a long-term plan for the site is put together.
But the planning application was withdrawn after various issues emerged.
There was real optimism towards the end of last year, though, when a revised planning application was submitted after Hallmark Estates had met with EDDC officials.
Postive contribution
But in a move that surprised those involved with the project, an EDDC conservation officer opposed the plans.
The conservation officer explained that the former Busy Bee building dates back to at least the mid-19th century, and added: “Its prominent position in the street scene, its proportions and massing, and surviving shop front and window apertures make it a positive contribution to the significance of the conservation area.
“In its present condition including a modern shop front its contribution is more neutral but this would be more positive if the building were repaired and given a future use.”
“I would continue to resist the demolition of 9 Lyme Street (the former Busy Bee building) as this is not required to access the car park as far as I am aware.”
The officer’s provisional recommendation was “proposal unacceptable”.
Mr Barton added: “As you can imagine, our aim is to persuade the planning officer that this is a view that isn’t widely held at all and that the benefits of the removal of the former Busy Bee building to the town, its shoppers, shopkeepers and residents far, far outweigh any net positive contributions that it might be considered to bring to the streetscene.
“These include a wider pavement in the location and an increased visibility splay which can only benefit and aid the well-being of pedestrians and vehicle users of the new temporary car-park and in the vicinity generally.
“We are conscious that the original planning application drawings show see-through railings surrounding the landscaped seating and public art area that would replace the former Busy Bee which would in effect create a ‘gap’ in the streetscene.
“Consequently, we’ve proposed a masonry wall, rendered and colourwashed with a coping-stoned top as a ‘solid’ alternative.
“We’re hoping that the town council will resolve to send a clear message to EDDC. “Namely, that to refuse the application on the grounds that the retention of the former Busy Bee building is more important than the benefits to Axminster of an approval, would be undemocratic and firmly against the wishes of the townsfolk and its business community.”
Axminster Chamber of Commerce chairman Lisa Lyman said: “It would be a shame if an old, derelict building prevented the most significant improvement to Axminster town centre in 30 years.”
Axminster Town Council met as Pulman’s View went to press.


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