M5 J27 plans could see new surf lake and outdoor adventure zone

The leader of Mid Devon District Council says it’s time to “start the dialogue” about development around junction 27 of the M5.

Will this create a new economic development zone to the east of Exeter? Will there be a TESP (Tiverton economic strategic plan)? – Owl

Ollie Heptinstall www.devonlive.com 

The Local Plan allocation includes a site of approximately 71 hectares adjoining the southbound carriageway of the M5 motorway adjacent to junction 27 for major development.

The allocation makes provision for an agronomy visitor centre, 1,000 square metres of ancillary retail, an outdoor adventure zone including a surf lake, lagoon, beach, high ropes adventure area, and an outlet shopping village.

Now at a meeting of the community policy development group, Councillor John Downes (Lib Dem, Boniface) said investment in the area could return “significant revenues” to the council, given the need to balance the books.

The council’s senior officers are tasked with finding savings, with Mid Devon estimating a total shortfall of just over £1 million next year – rising to a projected £1.6 million in 2026/27.

Leader Bob Deed (Independent, Cadbury) said Cllr Downes’ comments were “music to my ears,” adding that it was “time to start a dialogue” on the future of the junction.

He likened it to the lengthy process of reopening Cullompton railway station, which stemmed from starting a committee seven years ago. It recently moved a step closer after receiving millions of pounds from the chancellor’s budget.

“Now that was a 10-year project from the outset because things do take time, especially on the rail.

“We’ve now got something similar as a challenge in junction 27 and what it needs is there to be a caucus that are interested in developing junction 27, if for no other reason, than it will produce employment for people within the district and income for Mid Devon.

“So, I’m very interested and will support the economy [policy development group] through John Downes if you like, to seriously start the dialogue to do something with the junction 27 area.”

Junction 27 and Eden Westwood plans pictured here are a major talking point of the Local Plan

Junction 27 and Eden Westwood plans pictured here are a major talking point of the Local Plan

He said it was time to “take the brakes off the development” that’s delayed progress for six years.

Deputy chief executive Andrew Jarrett acknowledged that, while both junction 27 and junction 28 at Cullompton could see “significant both commercial and residential growth,” the economic challenge meant any development may not be as quick as people would like.

He added: “It would be brilliant for Mid Devon – and this is just from a financial perspective – if there was sizable development of both of those motorway junctions.

“That would see a very, very different financial sure for Mid Devon District Council’s bottom line. And also, this is just again my opinion, and for many residents of the district and increased jobs, etc, etc.

“I know there are always mixed feelings and emotions about the size of the economic growth in a beautiful rural area like we live in, but it has to be the right growth at the right time in the right place.”

Sir Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden Project as well as promoter Malcolm Dudley Williams, have backed plans to create a £200million surf lake and a ‘mini’ Eden Project. It is a partnership project by the Eden Project and investors Friends Life, part of the Aviva Group.

The Eden Ark will be at the centre of the scheme that will be split into four zones and will include a hotel, a visitor hub, an artificial surfing lake, a food hall, outdoor play areas, cafes and restaurants, shops for small businesses and a designer clothes outlet discount shopping centre.

The surf lagoon will be at the heart of the outdoor adventure zone, similar to Surf Snowdonia, Wales.