This project was phase 1 of a vision to establish a mixed use development that contributed to the regeneration of the Cutcombe/Wheddon Cross Area. Phase 1 included feasibility work, zoning and master planning, a business planning process and the acquisition of land for development.
About The Project
Cutcombe Market is an important part of Exmoor farming history. It has been a highly successful market and has been found by independent reports to be a high performer in relation to buying and selling livestock compared to other bigger markets. It has also been cited as an example of an efficient low cost system when compared to out of town sites. Against this positive success is the fact that the Market now has ageing facilities and is urgently in need of modernisation. ‘Exmoor Farmers’ had aspirations to create a new livestock market facility to provide modern up to date dual purpose penning together with a sale ring, sale hall, canteen, toilets and associated accommodation. If these facilities were not developed there was a danger that the positive success of the market experienced to date would decline in the face of other more robust competition. In order for ‘Exmoor Farmers’ to raise the resources to realise this ambition they required to release the asset value of part of their site.
Seizing the Opportunity
The local area around the Market faces a number of challenges. In line with other rural areas it relies heavily on traditional industries, wage levels are low and there is a lack of affordable housing. Recognising a potential opportunity given Exmoor Farmers’ plans, a partnership involving Somerset County Council, Exmoor National Park Authority, South West RDA and West Somerset Council, worked together to seize the opportunity and identify the potential to develop an innovative mixed use scheme that would ensure the long term survival and growth of the Market whilst offering a valuable mix of provision that would benefit the local community. This mixed use development will include:
- A new, vibrant Market
- Housing development
- Workspace to attract business and jobs into the area and
- An Exmoor National Park Interpretation Centre – celebrating the distinctiveness of the area
Support from Rural Renaissance
Recognising the value of this approach, the Somerset Rural Renaissance Partnership invested £100,000 towards a £200,000 Phase 1 project for 3 specific elements:
- Master planning and zoning for the Market, Workspace, the Interpretation Centre and Housing.
- The development of business plans for the Workspace and Interpretation Centre; and
- The acquisition of land for the Workspace element and the Interpretation Centre.
Concluding Phase 1
Phase 1 of this project is now being concluded. The master plan has outlined the zoning for the various parts of the Scheme. A business plan is in place for the workspace and an outline business plan has been prepared for the Interpretation Centre. Somerset County Council has concluded the acquisition of land required for the workspace development and Exmoor National Park Authority is finalising the acquisition of the land required for the Interpretation Centre.
The Workspace element
This project will provide 7,100 sq ft (659.5 sq m) of workspace in order to meet the demand for business premises in the area. This workspace will be part of a planned hub and spoke approach of new workspace sites in West Somerset (the others being located in Minehead, Williton and Dulverton).
The employment use area will be split into two distinct building blocks, orientated to make use of the natural contours across the site (thus avoiding major retaining structures) and to maximise the views towards Dunkery Beacon. Block A will comprise three larger units of 1,500 sq ft each, and Block B will house four smaller units of 650 sq ft . These Units will be utilised by Small and Medium Sized Enterprises that are starting up, expanding, or re-locating to the Exmoor area.
The Interpretation Centre element
The ‘Heart of Exmoor’ Centre aspires to be a high quality, year round facility using innovative interpretation tools and techniques to celebrate Exmoor’s special qualities focusing on the historic landscape. It will provide an opportunity to make the connection between land management, food production and the local economy to access, landscape and biodiversity. It will be a strategic hub for orientation and explanation of Exmoor National Park and a venue for learning, understanding and appreciating its special qualities. It will be a demonstration exemplar of a ‘carbon neutral’ and sustainable design building.
Achieving the Vision
‘Exmoor Farmers’ is now pursuing the development of its new Livestock Market and Summerfield Homes is currently developing plans for the housing element. The planning process is underway and is expected to be concluded in the autumn of 2008.
On the workspace element, Somerset County Council and the South West RDA are in discussion on a partnership approach to fund this element of the scheme. It is expected that final decisions on this will be reached in the autumn of 2008 with the ultimate building and conclusion of the project in early 2011.
On the Interpretation centre this still requires some further work to fully scope options and agree a final approach. This is now being planned with a view to achieving a comprehensive plan by 2009, securing the necessary resources by 2011/12 and achieving build and operation by 2012/13.