Cranbrook town centre from the air. Credit: Still Imaging

Developer negotiations to continue alongside preparations for a Supplementary Planning Document for the town centre's future

On Thursday 22nd October, East Devon District Council’s Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss the future of Cranbrook Town Centre. The Committee recommended to continue negotiations with the developer consortium, aiming to reach common ground and at the same time to progress the production of a Supplementary Planning Document detailing East Devon District Council’s vision for the town centre alongside the development of a package of funding.

The meeting presented two differing approaches for the town centre development, one from the development consortium which has built the town so far and one produced by East Devon District Council (EDDC). There is a lot of agreement between key stakeholders EDDC, the developer consortium, Cranbrook Town Council and Devon County Council, about the need for facilities in the town centre and where many of these are to be located. However, there are concerns about the amount and range of town centre development that can be achieved.

The EDDC proposal wants to ensure a vibrant town centre that not only meets the needs of the town now but also has room to meet the needs of the town in the future as it grows to 8000 homes, almost four times as many homes as it has now. EDDC understands that residents need facilities now and that this is important for their health and well-being. It is also important to provide a vibrant town centre which encourages people to visit regularly for many reasons, not only to visit a supermarket.

Reviews into town centres such as the Grimsey Review on the ‘Vanishing High Street’ and the government inquiry ‘High Streets and Town Centres in 2030’, shows there is a need to provide spaces which can be used for different purposes, as well as a variety of facilities, including employment space and leisure facilities. These are two elements not included in the consortium’s proposals. Although EDDC has been offered to buy land which could provide a leisure centre, it would mean moving the emergency services building, adversely affecting its ability to serve the town effectively.

Pre-application discussions have been held regarding proposals for the supermarket, shops and children’s nursery and constructive feedback given. EDDC would welcome these discussions continuing and the submission of a planning application so that these facilities can come forward soon. However, the developer consortium does not wish to go forward with the land sale for the supermarket, shops and nursery without being certain of securing the full number of houses presented in their proposals. This is due to their concerns that without the additional housing, they will not realise the level of profit they require. Information presented by the developer consortium on these profit concerns was detailed in the Strategic Planning Committee report (see pp 33-36) alongside EDDC officers concerns with the accuracy of this.

Members of the Strategic Planning Committee support the need for town centre facilities sooner rather than later and understand the frustrations of the residents of the town that only a pub has been provided so far. EDDC is committed to finding a suitable way forward that meets the needs of the town’s future as quickly as possible by working with all partners, including the developer consortium, Devon County Council and Cranbrook Town Council.

Councillor Dan Ledger, East Devon District Council's Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning, said:

We welcome the continuation of negotiations with the consortium and look forward to bringing a revised offer back to the December Strategic Planning Committee meeting. If the consortium are unwilling to do so, the Council will be ready to further pursue its own Strategic Planning Document route. This will ensure the facilities and necessary infrastructure that the Cranbrook residents deserve, are put in place to serve the future needs of the town.

A report will be taken to the Strategic Planning Committee on 15 December 2020 to present the draft Supplementary Planning Document and any updated proposal and offer from the development consortium.