UP to 350 new homes will replace a long-established Exeter garden centre.

Councillors have approved the outline application for St Bridget Nursery on Old Rydon Lane, after previously raising safety concerns about the main access point from the A379 Rydon Lane.

The nursery is now closed to the public but remains in use as the company’s nursery and head office. 

It now sells its products through its remaining garden centre on Sidmouth Road at Clyst St Mary.

Developer Waddeton Park plans 62 one-bedroom homes, 87 with two-bedrooms, 138 with three bedrooms and 59 with four-bedrooms, though this will be confirmed at a later date. 

More than a third of the properties would be classed as “affordable” – typically defined as up to 80 per cent of market rates.

The land, of around 35 acres, is in the Newcourt area of Exeter which is allocated for 3,500 dwellings and 16 hectares of employment land. 

A significant proportion of the area has now been built on.

Devon County Council had raised no objections to the highways plan but the city council’s planning committee disagreed last month, with one member describing it as “dangerous”.

However, after further discussions with highways officers, the committee was again recommended to approve the application at its meeting on Monday, March 27.

Members were told that traffic lights are “not suitable” at the Old Rydon Lane junction “due to the impact of queuing traffic on Old Rydon Lane” with highways officers instead suggesting installing a coloured raised crossing for cyclists and pedestrians.

A report to the committee added a recent accident in the area involving a cyclist and motor vehicle – which councillors previously referred to – is “the only incident in the past 10 years involving a pedestrian or cyclist, demonstrating that the existing junction is not inherently unsafe.”

Many councillors at the February meeting asked why an agreement couldn’t be reached with a neighbouring landowner for an alternative access to the nearby Ikea roundabout, a route seen as much safer.

But the planning agent for the developer, Waddeton Park, told the council it is “not reasonable” to require this, because highways officers don’t have a problem with the proposed Old Rydon Lane access.

It added that a “ransom burden is proposed on access through third party land at a cost of one-third of the development value of the land”.

Speaking in favour, Neil Thorn from Stantec, a firm working with the developer, said the proposal will provide “significant benefits for the local area”, including up to 122 “much-needed” affordable homes and “safety improvements for all users” at the Old Rydon Lane junction.

He also confirmed the development’s roads would be suitable for buses.

Councillor Rachel Sutton (Labour, Exwick) concluded: “It seems the concerns that were raised at the last discussion of this by members have all been fully addressed,” adding the answers “may not be what we wanted to see but these are the answers that we have got.”

Councillors approved the application by 11 votes to one, meaning a final stage “reserved matters” application, which includes the design and scale of the properties, can now be prepared.