Further plans bring growth to Okehampton’s economy
Posted on: 11 April 2012
Devon County Councillors today (Wednesday 11 April) backed further plans to boost employment and business growth in Okehampton, agreeing to submit a planning application for a new train station east of the town.
The new station would link the town’s ‘Opportunity Okehampton’ employment site with Exeter, and is close to the junction with the A30, so could serve a wider catchment area.
Members of the Council’s Cabinet also agreed to submit a revised planning application to broaden the scope of the employment site, to include non-food retail, distribution and a hotel, to permission previously granted for office and industrial land use and ancillary warehousing.
Funding for key infrastructure to open up the site would be drawn from the £1.636 million allocated by the Council for commercial developments across Devon between 2012 and 2016/17, and would then be recouped as individual development plots are sold..
The town has been the focus of a great deal of support to businesses and local people seeking employment since a number of high profile business closures over the last 18 months.
Initiatives through the Council-coordinated Okehampton Works Partnership have provided over 140 people with employment training so far, with over 100 people finding new employment.
The County Council bought the employment site land from the Regional Development Agency last year with a view to it stimulating employment growth in the town, and has since been investigating the benefits for improving access by way of passenger rail services.
Okehampton’s existing railway station is not in a convenient location for many of the town’s residents, but a new shared footpath and cycleway as part of the new railway station development would link the new employment site to the existing housing and employment areas, as well as to the new station.
Some £110,000 funding from Devon’s Local Transport Plan settlement funding would need to be allocated to the station, footpath/cycleway link and car park, to supplement £250,000 which has already been committed from Devon County Council’s own resources.
The Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Economic Development, Cllr Will Mumford, said:
“Developing an efficient business infrastructure is an essential building block to supporting the local economy. Making sure that the available employment site, which will complement the town’s existing Business Centre, has every opportunity to attract a wide range of business opportunities, and having the transport infrastructure to support it is critical.
“While the County Council is able to fund a significant amount of the work, further funding is needed. Establishing planning permission for a new small train station will improve our chances of success in attracting Government funding, and in improving passenger rail services to Okehampton, which is being re-tendered by the Department for Transport.
“There will also be a continuing need for travel between Okehampton and Exeter for work, education, retail and leisure purposes, and creating a sustainable low carbon rail alternative will accommodate growth in housing and employment without exacerbating highway congestion.”
Councillor Christine Marsh, local Member for Okehampton Rural, said:
“I am delighted. This is great news for Okehampton and, hopefully, is the next step in achieving an improved passenger rail service for the town that will boost tourism and employment opportunities for local people.”Posted in: Business and Economy