Work on the former Leaderflush Shapland site set to start ‘by the end of the year’.

An artist's impression of the Asda store, part of the approved Anchorwood Bank development in Barnstaple.An artist's impression of the Asda store, part of the approved Anchorwood Bank development in Barnstaple.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for an Asda supermarket on the former Leaderflush Shapland site in Barnstaple have been approved by North Devon Council.

The major proposals for the Anchorwood Bank area of the town were finally approved today (Wednesday) as councillors looked down the barrel of a public inquiry being scheduled to take place in the autumn.

In April members voted to defer a decision on the plans to enable them to consider the plans in tandem with an application for a new Morrisons store at the Evans Transport yard.

An appeal against non-determination was subsequently lodged with the Secretary of State, but is now set to be withdrawn by the applicant following today's decision.

An artist's impression of the approved Asda store (above), and the proposed Morrisons store (below), an application that is still to be determined by North Devon Council.An artist's impression of the approved Asda store (above), and the proposed Morrisons store (below), an application that is still to be determined by North Devon Council.

Speaking on behalf of Asda Store Ltd and DS Wessex, Lucie Brailsford, project communications manager, said the developers were 'delighted' with the outcome.

"We have been working on this application for four years and are now keen to get started as soon as we can.

"Inevitably, planning applications of this complexity take time to address but we are delighted to reach today's outcome."

The approval has also given the green light for up to 350 new homes, a 60-bed hotel, restaurants and cafes, as well as leisure, employment and community facilities.

Major flood defence works along the River Taw will be undertaken as part of the project, as well as new roads, footpaths, cycleways and contribution towards a new pedestrian bridge linking the site to the town centre.

Existing buildings on the brownfield site will be demolished with the exception of the Oliver Building.

Ms Brailsford said phase one of the project will include the Asda store, car park, highways and flood works, a walkway linking the development to the Tarka Trail, as well as serviced and landscaped access land ready for housing development.

"We hope to be able to start work on site later this year. We need to complete the necessary highways and flood work first but would hope to have a new supermarket ready to open by the end of 2015 or early 2016.

"We have already had lots of interest in the space available on site, including from housing developers and hotel groups, and we will be keeping the local community informed throughout the various construction phases.

"This will be a real bonus for Barnstaple."

Having regained power to determine the decision themselves the council is now in a position to negotiate the finer details of a £3m package of developer-funded regeneration.

Among the Section 106 developer contributions on the table are £942,000 for public open spaces; £1.1m for education; £1m for flood defences; a £50,000 heritage fund; a £50,000 town centre mitigation fund; and up to 25 per cent affordable housing.

Councillors listened to representations from a number of objectors but dismissed concerns about the adverse impact on town centre traders and roads.

Barnstaple Town Centre Manager Craig Bulley said he had 'grave concerns' over the traffic the development would generate and the effect on businesses in the town.

"When the new Tesco opened we did a survey and the results showed the store had a 10 per cent impact on town centre businesses," he said.

"That's a big worry for us."

Speaking on behalf of Green Lanes owner British Land, Matthew Morris said the plans for a 20,000 sq ft extension of the shopping centre would be put in jeopardy if the Asda plans were given the go-ahead.

"When British Land bought Green Lanes two years ago they thought they were working with a council that wanted to protect Barnstaple town centre but from the report by planning officers, that doesn't appear to be the case

"My client is extremely concerned that there will be a significant diversion of retail from the town centre.

"British Land wants to invest further in Green Lanes but this investment will be put at serious risk if this plan goes ahead."

Every councillor - with the exception of Richard Edgell - voted to approve the application.

Cllr Edgell moved the council should defer the application to hear it alongside the Morrison's application but no one would second the motion.

He said: "Three months ago we resolved we thought it was appropriate to decide on both of the applications together.

"I can't see the reason why we have to make a decision today rather than look in two months time."

Several of the registered speakers at the meeting also recommended the council should wait to discuss the application alongside the Liberty Properties application to build a Morrisons store.

"This is a smoke and mirrors scheme you have been presented," said Tim Price, speaking from Saville's on behalf of the developer.

"Only one element will be delivered by the developer and that's the food store."

Before the meeting, council planning officer Keith Bines told the Gazette that Liberty Properties was still seeking to address highways issues for the Morrisons application with Devon County Council.

"We are not in a position to bring this application back to committee at this juncture," said Mr Bines.