Bad for the city,
bad for the environment
and bad for business
Land Securities' Princesshay Redevelopment is without doubt one of the big threats to the health and viability of the City of Exeter.
That is why 3,000 people have objected to their planning application. More objections than any other development in Exeter. And that is why 14,000 people have signed a petition calling for a Public Inquiry. This proposal has become a symbol of all that is wrong with planning in Exeter.
Many people are not aware of the damaging scale of the proposals. Land Securities is talking about demolishing 8 acres of the City Centre. That's an area the size of six football pitches. It's not just Princesshay, but the complete area from Paris Street to Catherine Street including Bedford Square. For three years, this key area of Exeter will become a building site. But the damaging effects will spread throughout Exeter.
Supporters of the Redevelopment have said that the proposals are necessary for the future prosperity of Exeter. This is unsubstantiated tosh. It has been argued that Exeter needs to compete with Cribbs Causeway. The reality is that Exeter's trading has not been affected by Cribbs Causeway at all. Indeed trading in the city centre last Christmas was the best ever. In a sense the proposals are backward looking in that they are reminiscent of the comprehensive redevelopment schemes of the early 1980s. The lessons learnt from that period, are that it is better to develop the city organically, improving those parts that don't work, whilst retaining those parts that do.
Bad for Business
The proposals do not stack up economically. Land Securities' proposals amount to almost half a million sq.ft of floor space. Currently there is 1,360,000 sq.ft of shop floor space in the city centre. During the construction of the development this will drop to 1,160,000 sq.ft. After construction this will increase to 1,620,000 sq.ft. This amounts to an increase of almost 40%. There is not going to be an overnight 40% increase in consumer spending, therefore some shops will suffer. Peripheral areas like Sidwell Street, Fore Street, the Harlequins, maybe even South Street are likely to experience shop closures.
Bad for the Environment
The environmental impact will affect all areas of Exeter.
Look at the facts:
- A new 600 space car park - but this will never be sufficient to deal with the enormous increase in traffic generated by the development.
- Barnfield Road will experience a 500% increase in traffic, Western Way a 80% increase and there will be 15% more traffic in Heavitree Road
- About 300,000 tonnes of rubble having to be removed through Southernhay. This works out at about 25 lorry journeys every day just for the demolition.
There are four good reasons why there must be a Public Inquiry
It is inconceivable that the people of Exeter might be denied an Inquiry, but there are people actively trying to prevent an Inquiry taking place. Exeter Business Forum and the City Centre Consortium have stated their clear aim to ensure that there is no Public Inquiry on the Princesshay Redevelopment. These main members of these groups of course have a vested interest here. The MD of Marks and Spencer in the High St. might have aspirations to move to the new Department Store that Land Securities have in mind.
- The City Council has been supportive over the last 4 years - it is unlikely that it will be able to determine the application objectively
- The City Council is a major landholder in Princesshay
- The development is in contravention of the Local Plan
- There is overwhelming public opposition to the proposals
We do not believe, however, that Exeter should remain static. We want to see this part of Exeter brought up to date, in a way that Exonians can be proud of. That is why we have asked local architects to produce alternative proposals which are more appropriate for Exeter and more sustainable. These proposals will retain the parts of Exeter, like Bedford Square, that are successful, and enhance those areas where there is better potential, like the valuable vista of the cathedral from the open space in front of the Post Office. We want to see Princesshay improved with new shops above the existing shops (like Chester City Centre) with access from a new first floor deck. We are also putting forward a visionary proposal for the Post Office site which is a mixed courtyard development comprising small offices, housing, shared services, educational facilities, a new Post Office, and small local shops to serve the business community of Southernhay.
However, if we are to experience how sensitive design CAN improve our environment, we must first make sure that the Land Securities' damaging proposals are stopped in their tracks.
Exeter Friends of the Earth and Exeter Peoples Choice are committed to campaigning for Appropriate and Sustainable Development in our City Centre.