Bus Station Redevelopment

In 2013 the city council announced that they had entered into an agreement with developer The Crown Estate and their retail partners  to redevelop the whole site, including the replacement of some of the buildings in Paris Street and Sidwell Street. This was to be based on a set of Development Principles which was published in 2012, and was found acceptable by the society.

The city council has had aspirations to develop this site for many decades because it is under used and an eyesore. Most Exonians agree with this but it has been difficult to find a developer to undertake this work. In the autumn of 2017 the latest developers pulled out of the development, citing difficult trading conditions.

 

 

Updates

LATEST

ECS will monitor what will happen to the remainder of the area, which currently is fenced in. There are plans to at least temporarily use the site for an outdoor market, up till a solution for the wider site is found. We hope, any future planning will take into consideration how many activities and businesses have established themselves in Paris Street and Sidwell Street, all adding up to a much improved local atmosphere buzzling with creativity and enterprise.

2021

The new bus station opened, but soon there were complaints about its scale and the fact that not all services can operate from the new terminal. Exeter now has an active Bus User Group which looks into the local bus services in general.

February 2018

The society held a public meeting on 3rd February 2018 with nearly 100 attendees, with Councillor Bialyk of the city council answering questions from the public. There were representatives from the three other political parties on the council, as well as from the Exeter & District Bus Users Group.

Councillor Bialyk faced some difficult questioning from the public who were particularly concerned that a bigger and better bus station than is proposed should be provided, and that the council should consider refurbishment of the existing perfectly functional bus station. The council were also criticised about the facilities proposed in the new Leisure Centre, as well as the mounting costs. A fuller report can be found on the DevonLive website. And you can read more on our Latest page via the link to the right.

Recent Background

In 2013 the city council announced that they had entered into an agreement with developer The Crown Estate and their retail partners  to redevelop the whole site, including the replacement of some of the buildings in Paris Street and Sidwell Street. This was to be based on a set of Development Principles which was published in 2012, and was found acceptable by the society.

The city council proposed a new Leisure Centre (swimming pools and fitness suites) at the bottom of the site off the Paris Street roundabout which has a striking design. The developer proposed new shops, restaurants and a cinema, as well as some green space, but said they could not afford a new bus station, which they were expected to provide in return for developing the site – see Development Principles. This resulted in the City Council developing proposals for a new bus station. However, its design has proved controversial because it is smaller than the existing bus station, long distance coaches will not be able to use it, and there is less space for passengers.

The public have mixed views about the provision of the new Leisure Centre (St Sidwells Point), and that the cost of building it and a new bus station is expected to cost £40 million. The society shares the concern about the cost.

A controversial part of the proposals is the closure of Paris Street to traffic, and the diversion of traffic via York Road, King William Street and Longbrook Street. The closure was approved as part of the planning approval for the redevelopment, but many people considered the alternative route unsatisfactory, including the civic society. Upon the publication of public notices for the closure of the roads (by the city council) many people objected to the secretary of state. As of November 2017 the public notice requests are still pending. We presume the council wish to proceed with the closure if new developers can be found for the site.

Letter to Councillor Edwards from Exeter Civic Society

Dear Cllr Edwards (31 December 2017),

Thank you for meeting with myself and Pamela Wootton of Exeter Civic Society on 21 December 2017 to discuss how you may progress the redevelopment of this important site now that The Crown Estate and their partners have withdrawn from developing it.

I thought it important to summarise our concerns and proposals in writing and copy these to the Council’s chief Executive and deputy Chief Executive, and leaders of other political parties. We will be releasing a press release to local media to convey these concerns and citing our helpful discussions with you.

We asked that you rethink the proposals for the whole of the site bounded by Sidwell Street, Cheeke Street and Paris Street, and that you do that in the context of your own Development Principles issued in 2012. The Crown Estate proposal did not meet some of the aspirations in the Development Principles such as reinforcing Sidwell Street, developing a market square, reflecting the city’s urban grain and streetscape, and that there should be residential development on upper floors. We believe that any new development should provide opportunities for local traders in preference for national chains, although we recognise that some national retailers are necessary to support redevelopment.

We asked that the council should buy-out the existing leases in Paris Street and Sidwell Street so the council has control of future development. We expressed our concerns about the poor condition of the buildings in Paris Street and Sidwell Street, particularly the upper floors, which are also under-used in many cases. Those holding the long-term leases only seem interested in the rental returns and not the attractiveness of the buildings or the area.

You agreed that the site could be offered for development in various zones, and that you have control over the bus station site so you can determine what is developed there. We believe there are dangers in seeking a developer for the whole site because that has already been shown to be unviable. By agreeing development with a number of developers we believe financial risk will be reduced and that development is more likely to happen, and we urge you to insist that your own Development Principles are met.

We asked that the redevelopment of the site should provide much better linkage to Sidwell Street, Bampfylde Street (to Summerland Street) and Belgrave Road. The previous proposal did not offer good linkage to this area which will not meet the aspirations of your Development Principles, and not allow shoppers the ability to move freely from Paris Street to Summerland Street.

In any future design a multi-use square should be provided which could also be used by market traders. If located next to a new bus station, this will provide a much better first impression upon arrival in Exeter.

We understand your desire to proceed with proposals for the Leisure Centre and a new Bus Station, although the Society does have concerns about the value for money of the Leisure Centre. We are concerned about your decision to proceed with the demolition of the existing bus station because you will not know if the council can afford to build the new Bus Station and Leisure Centre until you receive tenders later in 2018.

We believe that demolition of the bus station is irresponsible until you fully know the financial implications for building a new Leisure Centre and Bus Station. We ask that you do not demolish the bus station canopy or dig up the forecourt because we and others believe that the existing bus station functions well, and can be redeveloped at much less cost than building a new bus station. Redevelopment will still be possible on Cheeke Street and Paris Street which will mask the bus station.

You told us that although the Council has received expressions of interest in developing the site since The Crown Estate withdrew, you have yet to meet with any developers to discuss their proposals. It is clear to us that discussions and negotiations will take many months, and it will take many more months to determine which developer is most appropriate, if any. And once at that stage a new developer will need to develop proposals and consult, followed by a planning application. All of this reinforces our concern about progressing with the demolition of the bus station before any developers have been appointed, let alone to commit to a planning application.

We look forward to further discussions in the future, and hope for proposals that will meet the needs of local people rather than national retailers.

Yours sincerely,   Keith Lewis, Vice Chairman.