We welcome sensible and affordable proposals to improve the use of the site and the range and quality of important facilities in the city centre.
Since the City Council gave itself planning permission for St Sidwell’s Point and a new smaller bus station, much has changed, including the decision by the Crown Estate not to proceed with the private sector redevelopment on the site.
These changes offer a real opportunity for a rethink about the whole site. We believe the Labour party’s decision to press on with its existing plans is misguided, short-sighted and ultimately detrimental to the economic and social health of Exeter.
In particular, we are arguing for:
A modern, covered multi-use market, with associated open space, for use by local food producers and traders, and local organisations who want to have stalls, craft and cultural events and provide space for performance & leisure events such as ice skating. Space to support small, micro and pop up businesses - not the national chains -to make the local economy stronger and more resilient and to encourage people to visit for a unique Exeter experience.
Affordable and social housing which will help anchor the city centre with a core of residents who are out and about and have a stake in the space, and will counterbalance the massive growth in city centre student accommodation.
A bus station that is large enough to cope with future increased use of bus services, which will be essential if congestion and emissions from cars are to be reduced. Refurbishment of the existing bus station should be a serious option, though the council have not considered it.
A traffic reduction and management plan to ensure that any new facilities are accessible by means other than private cars.
A re-assessment of swimming provision for the city, making use of the £100 million award from Sport England, and looking at refurbishment of the Pyramids, or redevelopment on the Pyramids site, which may prove to be an alternative to the St Sidwell’s Point. The issue of pool provision across the city needs to be reviewed. The Northbrook pool is nearing the end of its life, the Council have recently agreed some £900,000 of funding on the Pyramids (clearly run down by the private operator) and Riverside is still out of use. Refurbishing Pyramids must be considered.
Any leisure facility should be owned and managed by the Council itself so profits can be reinvested in Council Services.
Above all, we believe the Council must embark on a serious programme of conducting a dialogue with residents, businesses, visitors and interest groups such as the Bus Users Group, Exeter Swimming Club and other swimming interest groups, Farmer's Market group, St Sidwell's Traders before taking final decisions. Many of the Council’s problems today stem from the fact that their consultations and decisions appear to have been based on holding a few exhibitions which asked people to comment on pre-formed plans and largely ignoring the views and comments received. We believe that this is a not an adequate way to work with communities and would wish to see more imaginative and responsive approaches to consultation on the plans for this site.