Asda withdraws Exmouth store plan
SUPERMARKET giant Asda has withdrawn its proposals for a new supermarket in a Devon seaside town.
The decision has been welcomed by an action group which campaigned against the controversial development on Exmouth's estuaryside in Royal Avenue.
An artist's impression of the Asda development
The American-owned company has also scrapped plans for a replacement swimming pool and sports centre, Jurassic coast visitor centre and library, to be provided in return for planning consent for the 40,000 sq ft store.
Asda blames the economic climate for its decision to pull out.
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However, East Devon District Council says the superstore was unwilling to meet the requirements for the package of community benefits.
Exmouth Citizens' Forum has campaigned for three years against a store alongside the estuary.
During that time, the forum organised an 11,000-name petition which was presented to Parliament, a referendum and a questionnaire.
Megan Armstrong, of the forum, said: "It's a victory for people power. We have fought long and hard against this saying it is the wrong site and that a supermarket would ruin the estuaryside."
Geoff Morris, chairman of Exmouth Residents' Association, added: "I hope the council and local organisations will now get together to discuss what can go on this site."
Town councillor Steve Gazzard said: "I was deeply concerned over the supermarket going on the estuaryside — it wasn't the right site."
Roy Pryke, chairman of the Exmouth Community Association, said: "It was clear from the beginning there would be serious problems such as traffic and parking."
However, the district council described Asda's decision as a disappointment.
Ray Franklin, the council's planning and regeneration portfolio holder, said: "In these difficult times, it is not a complete surprise that any company is cautious about a massive investment such as this, but it is still a great shame."
District council economy portfolio holder Peter Halse, chairman of the Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board, said: "This is not the end of the road by any means, but it will take time to come up with alternative ideas and we will actively investigate other options."
In a statement, the council said: "Asda has confirmed it will not proceed with its plans for a supermarket development.
"Their development team was unwilling to satisfy the council's requirements with a package of community benefits to the town, including a new sports hall, visitor centre and library."
An Asda spokesman said: "Unfortunately, in the time it has taken Asda to progress, the economic climate has deteriorated significantly, impacting the value of the scheme's residential element and its prospects for rental income. As a result, the economics of the development have changed, leaving the proposal, as it stands, unachievable in the current environment."