Exeter brownfield site could provide new ‘waterside community’ for 14,000

The housing potential for this brownfield site is greater than the grade 1 agricultural land “sacrificed” by farmers to build Cranbrook. Makes Owl wonder whether the GESP provided too soft an option for too long.

Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com

Plans are to be unveiled to turn a once thriving Exeter industrial centre into a ‘vibrant new waterside community’ that has the potential to house around 14,000 people. The proposals could see brownfield land at Water Lane, between Marsh Barton and the Exeter canal, turned into new homes alongside shops, offices, restaurants and many other facilities.

Historically, it was once the home of a thriving industrial centre and Exeter gasworks, but for decades the site has been described as ‘underused’ and has been identified for many years by the city council as suitable for a major redevelopment in its Liveable Exeter vision. That vision states a desire to create an enterprising, self-sustaining community and a place to work as well as to live where day to day needs can be met without the use of a car.

Over the last years, many of the plots, including a former meat rendering plant, have been acquired by the Water Lane Development Management Company (DMC). Now the project team are preparing to invite feedback on proposals for a mixed-use community.

Exact details of the proposals won’t be revealed until Friday, June 24, when a drop-in exhibition will be held at Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre from 10am to 7pm. The exhibition will also be on view the following day, Saturday, June 25, from 10am to 4pm, and will also be available online. Exeter residents are being invited to shared ideas to help before finalised are submitted to Exeter City Council’s planning department.

Richard Clarke, of Water Lane DMC, said: “Although the proposals are at an early stage, we would like to start a conversation with neighbours, and people living and working right across the city of Exeter, to help refine our vision of a low-car, low-carbon community, well connected to the city, but also a place where people will be able to live, work and spend their leisure time.

“Exeter is a fantastic city with a great environment, surrounded by some amazing countryside. If it’s to continue to thrive and grow in a way that protects that environment, we must make the best use of underutilised land within the city’s boundaries.”

Water Lane is one of nine sites identified in the city council’s Liveable Exeter programme which promotes a vision for sustainable mixed communities, close to the heart of the city. Richard added: “We want Water Lane to be a low-car, low-carbon community, which will help meet the challenges of climate change. It’s already a well-connected site. Parts of it are only a 15-minute walk from Exeter High Street, and less than five minutes from Marsh Barton, and yet the beauty of the canal and the Riverside Valley Park are also on the doorstep.

“The new Marsh Barton railway station which is opening soon will also help connect Water Lane with the rest of the city, and we have been discussing with Stagecoach how we can make the best use of electric buses to serve the new residents – as well as existing ones nearby.”

Water Lane DMC is working closely with Co-Cars, which are already prominent and popular in the city, to develop electric car, van and bike-sharing hubs that are embedded within the design concept of the development, to provide genuine alternatives to private car ownership.

Richard said: “If we’re to meet net-zero carbon targets in the fight against climate change, we will all need to change the way we live. We can make this as simple as possible by designing a community that’s fit for the future, with all the necessary infrastructure.

“In addition to promoting sustainable travel, we’re designing an energy centre to make the best use of solar electricity generated on site, with the aim of being reliant solely on sustainable energy.”

Richard added: “We’re some way off submitting any planning application but it’s important that the local community, and people in Exeter, have an opportunity to be involved in the design of this new and highly sustainable community. We’ll be asking what sort of facilities might be needed, what kind of homes and how best to turn a brownfield site into a green community, with a focus on improving the natural and cultural environment.

“It’s a large area, and like any brownfield site it has its challenges. We look forward to inviting the people of Exeter to help shape the proposals.” The exhibition material will be available online at www.waterlaneexeter.co.uk from Friday, June 24.