A ROW has erupted between rival councillors over a proposed multi-million pound development that could damage Taunton Deane's economy.

There is widespread opposition in our area to plans for a 'shopping village', including restaurants, cafes, an agronomy visitor centre and adventure zone offering water sports and high ropes, free parking and hotel near Tiverton, off Junction 27 of the M5.

The plans, from Eden Westwood, are in the Mid Devon forward plan despite protests from Taunton Deane Borough Council.

Opposition Deane councillor Habib Farbahi (LibDem) has slammed the ruling Conservatives, claiming we are being left behind because of "ineffective leadership".

He said: "The plans could have a devastating effect on the future prosperity of our county town and the livelihood of our residents.

"It's surprising therefore that our politicians in charge of Taunton Deane seem to be indifferent to the possible effect of the proposal.

"Don't they care? Is this a direct result of inaction with their failure to develop Firepool and Taunton town centre for the past ten years?

"Why have they failed to come up with a shopping offer in Wellington, for example at the Old Mill?

"Isn't the reason ineffective leadership that's waited too long to take steps to enhance Taunton into a sub-regional centre while Exeter and Bristol flourish?"

Cllr Roger Habgood, Deane House executive councillor for planning policy and transportation, said his authority and councils in Wellington and Exeter "robustly" oppose the "unsustainable development" and has expressed his concerns to Mid Devon District Council.

He added: "This proposal is for a scale of development that will have a clear impact on the vitality and viability of Taunton Deane, and the council is anything but indifferent to it.

"The council's recommended position was taken to the Local Development Steering group meeting, at which Cllr Farbahi was present, following which I compiled a letter of opposition to Mid Devon’s Local Plan."

Referring to Wellington, Mr Habgood said the Deane supports businesses there and any retail developments at J27 or on the outskirts of Wellington would "have an impact".

He added that in Taunton proposals for schemes at Firepool and Coal Orchard will be decided soon, while there are plans to expand the Brewhouse Theatre and funding for an employment site creating thousands of jobs off Junction 25 of the M5.

Mr Habgood said: "These schemes are key elements of the vision creating more great places for people to work, shop, relax and enjoy and could not have reached this advanced stage through inaction.”

Richard Chesterton, MDDC cabinet member for planning and economic regeneration, said: "We have had ongoing discussions with colleagues at Taunton Deane, and we recognise that while they are supportive of some aspects of the proposed allocation at J27, they also have concerns that remain about other elements.

"It is right and proper that these opinions, along with the supporting relevant information, will be heard by an independent inspector at the Local Plan examination in due course.

"Both our councils have a strong interest in enabling sustainable growth along this strategically-important M5 corridor, and we will continue to work closely with TDBC on other matters of joint interest, not least the co-funding of recent work to advance the re-opening of Wellington and Cullompton railway stations."