Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

Bus Station Latest

The society held a successful public meeting on 6th February 2018 to hear from councillors how the redevelopment of the bus & coach station may evolve. We are very grateful to councillor Bialyk who represented the council as Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing Communities and Sport, and as chair of the council’s Leisure Complex and Bus Station Programme Board. He was very forthcoming, but faced a lot of criticism from those attending the meeting. Of most concern to people was the provision of a larger bus station than is being proposed, and to consider refurbishing the existing bus station. There were also calls to review the proposed Leisure Centre and to consider a multi use 50m swimming pool elsewhere in the city.

The society is calling for the council to bring forward proposals for the whole site that are in-line with their own Development Principles, and to consider a masterplanning exercise because they control at least 75% of the site.

The meeting followed our meeting with Exeter City Council councillors on 21 December 2017 to challenge them to rethink the proposals for the site. We heard that whilst they have had enquiries from other developers they have yet to have serious discussions with them about what they want to provide. We heard that they intend to proceed with proposals for the Leisure Centre and Bus Station and will seek new tenders for this work in 2018.

We followed up our meeting up setting out our ideas and concerns about how the bus station site and Paris Street could be redeveloped in a letter. The text is shown below.

The points of concern evolved following a discussion afternoon with Civic Society members and representatives of Exeter Bus Users Group and Exeter Swimming Club. You can read our press release following our letter to the council on the Press Articles Page.

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discuss how you may progress the redevelopment of this important site now that The Crown Estate and their partners have withdrawn from developing it.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.

Letter to ECS from DfT 13.03.17

Letter to DfT from ECS 22.02.17

Letter to City Council from ECS 03.12.15

Letter to City Council from ECS 14.09.15

Letter to City Council from ECS 12.04.15

Letter to City Council from ECS 19.04.12