Cranbrook will get its new town centre

Another major decision from Super Wednesday, tis time from the cabinet.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet unanimously agreed to accept a revised, and better, offer on Cranbrook Town centre. 

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Cranbrook will finally get the town centre it deserves after councillors agreed to accept a revised offer from developers for the future of the town.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday unanimously agreed to accept an updated offer from the East Devon New Community Partners (EDNCp) that could a significant number of new facilities open by the end of 2022.

The ‘hard-fought deal’ with developers will bring forward multi-million pound plans which includes land to provide a range of other community, leisure and business spaces and could include a leisure centre.

A Morrison’s supermarket, a range of shops, a youth centre, library and town council offices are also set to be in place by the end of next year, and the cabinet also agreed a way forward for a sports pavilion to be delivered at Ingrams through the developers working with Cranbrook Town Council.

The Cabinet decision means that the council will be investing heavily in Cranbrook’s future to the tune of millions of pounds as it can buy land to build areas of the town centre itself.

Councillors had twice rejected accepting the offer from the EDNCp, including once just before Christmas, but after further negotiations over the holiday period, further movement to make the offer for Cranbrook more acceptable had been made, including issues around viability, restrictions on offer food stores within the town being relaxed, and increasing the size of the town square.

Speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting, Cllr Kevin Blakey, one of the Cranbrook ward councillors, said that this plan was ‘taking its final drink in the last chance saloon’. He added: “I don’t want to labour the point but this is the moment to make a decision on the future of Cranbrook town centre.

“Do you accept it is as good as it is likely to get and the vast majority of Cranbrook find this acceptable? It’s not perfect, but acceptable, and if you do think the same way, then vote to allow the project to get under way.”

Cllr Dan Ledger, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for strategic planning, added that the negotiated agreement means that the council has options on the land, so as the town expands, there is a chance for the town centre to expand with it.

He added: “We have nailed the developers down to an actual timeline, so it is won’t be ‘pie in the sky’. An accord has been reached and I propose that we sign the memorandum of understanding.”

Cllr Paul Hayward, the council’s deputy leader, added: “I hope those populist twitter accounts hold their hands up and admit we are in a better place than we would have been. At the moment Cranbrook is a housing estate with a few amenities, now they will get a town centre fit for now and fit for the future. This has delivered a better deal for the people of Cranbrook.”

Cllr Paul Arnott, Leader of the council, added: “I am delighted that the people of Cranbrook now have the freedom to finish the sports pavilion under their own steam, and also that we have managed to get the best possible outcome for them for the future of the town centre.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Ledger added: “I am really pleased that our determined negotiations on behalf of the public interest in Cranbrook have paid off. Historic lessons must be learned about a council leaving the roll-out of a new town to developers – as was decided many years ago.

“But we have now shown our commitment to win the very best possible outcome for local people in this situation, and I am proud that our administration stuck by its guns against much pressure to concede inferior terms four months ago.

“The people of Cranbrook will benefit from this decision for many generations to come.”

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

The decision has also been welcomed by the council’s Cranbrook members who have fought long and hard on behalf of their residents, with Cllrs Blakey, Kim Bloxham and Sam Hawkins saying: “This is great news for the residents of Cranbrook. We have been expecting a resolution on this for a very long time.

“We are really looking forward to seeing the detailed plans coming forward and hope that the first spade will be in the ground as soon as the permissions have been granted.

“We are also very pleased that the matter of building the sports pavilion is being passed to the Town Council. This will ensure that a building suited to the needs of the community can now be delivered in a timely manner.”

The next stage is for the developers to seek planning permission for the supermarket, the town square, a parade of shops and a childrens’ day nursery. Subject to permission being granted, the developers say that these facilities could be open by late 2022.

The town square, the town council facility, library and youth facilities will also be delivered much sooner than after the required trigger point of 3,450 homes built.

Around 350 new homes in the town centre area will be built, while land will be transferred at market value to the council which could be used for a leisure centre, a hotel and retail units.

Since building began at Cranbrook in 2012, a retail-led high street with shops was envisaged. However, with the rise of internet shopping and the decline of the high street, a great deal of work has been carried out by the council to understand the role of a 21st century town centre.

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Artist impression of the plans for Cranbrook town centre

Over the last year, the council has been working with the Cranbrook consortium of developers, which includes two major house builders, to negotiate what the town needs and how it can be delivered.

Proposals were considered by two meetings of the strategic planning committee in October and December. Councillors rejected the developers’ deals on both occasions because they were concerned that they wouldn’t meet the needs of the town as it grew to the proposed 7,800 homes. Currently 2,200 homes have been completed.

Following further negotiation, a better deal came forward just before Christmas, councillors were told, and they unanimously voted to accept the new offer.

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