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Major plans for Crediton garden centre revealed

Artist impression (Image Parks Lees Architects from the planning application)

Expansion could create 60 jobs, but council receive number of objections

The ambitious plans would see a new café and a warehouse built at the garden centre on Higher Road, as well as seeing a new indoor retail space built and up to 60 new jobs could be created.

Access to the garden centre would be from a new access point off the A377, where highways improvements would be made.

A previous version of the scheme went before Mid Devon District Council planners in December, where they deferred the application for an implications report to be produced on whether the application would harm Crediton town centre, how sustainable increase in traffic on the highway network would be, and the amount of car parking proposed.

The revised application would see 163 car parking spaces provided, down from 194 in the initial plans, with the number of coach spaces halving to three and staff parking reducing from 42 to 30, while the proposed heights of the buildings have decreased from 5m to 3.7m.

Planning permission in regard to retail floor space and potential goods to be sold already exists on the site.

Documents submitted with the application add: “The site currently under-utilised with large areas of unused scrub ground surrounding a random series of east-to-west gabled simple horticultural glass-houses and propagation poly-tunnels. The site facilities, such as the shop, customer toilets and car park, are rudimentary, having developed in a random way over time.

“The car park is small and has little capacity for visitor parking, being used also for outdoor delivery storage and much of the plant sales space is outdoor, accessed by roughly paved pathways. Indoor plant propagation space doubled as sales area.

“Long term lack of developed facilities on site has added to a steady decline in employed staff numbers and the existing garden centre employs four full time staff and three part time staff.

“This application is to modernise the site as a viable garden centre, with associated retail and other gardening related and sundry non-related goods, together with an in-house café for the on-site consumption of food and drink.

“The new indoor retail space will replace the existing ad-hoc sprawl of function-limited greenhouses and other structures, which are now all beyond their reasonable lifespan.”

The amount of retail floor space is increased marginally from that already permitted, from 6,082 sq m to 6,398 sq m proposed.

Access to the expanding garden centre would be via a new entrance on the A377 and not from the existing Higher Road entrance.

The design and access statement adds: “To ease the associated transport issues a new east-bound bus stop lay-by would be created as an addition to the main highway. This is so as not to compromise the free-flow of traffic on the A377, or the operation of the junction, or the new main entrance to the garden centre.”

It continues: “The proposals represent an opportunity for the renewal and up-dating of an existing garden centre, currently not fulfilling its potential, into a modern garden centre. The realized proposals will, without detriment to the nature of the site, offer significant local employment potential and be a local rural business economy generator.

“The proposals will upgrade and enhance the venue as a local leisure destination, which will build on and augment the existing facility, making a far more attractive and diverse retail proposition, maximising the currently under-used site potential.

“They also offer scope for local participation and involvement, as well as offering gardening hobby and specialist skill and knowledge through non-vocational courses and classes taking place on site at various times throughout the gardening year.

“The application proposals are a proportionate and carefully balanced local business response to a currently out-dated, under-utilised site, trading below potential. The proposals will significantly build upon what the site has to offer to the Mid-Devon community.”

The scheme has split the community, with 143 letters of support for the scheme and 156 letters of objections.

Supporters of the scheme have said that the improved garden centre will help revitalise Crediton, provide much needed jobs and see improvements to the road network.

Objectors say that it will threaten the livelihood of businesses in the town centre, will add to the congested traffic problems the town faces, and the proposals are too large for its open countryside site.

Mid Devon District Council planners will determine the fate of the application at a later date.

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