Councillors have backed plans that would see a well-known Exeter city centre car park demolished and turned into housing. Mary Arches Street car park is becoming obsolete according to Exeter City Council and would require a £3.8 million refurbishment to “extend its usable life.”
Ollie Heptinstall www.devonlive.com
The council’s executive, at its meeting on Tuesday, approved knocking it down and turned into a “residential-led mixed use scheme” of around 100 homes with commercial use on the ground floor. The decision will need to be rubber-stamped at a full council meeting in a fortnight but, if approved, the car park could close before January.
A report by council finance director Dave Hodgson says a public consultation on the site’s future will then start in the new year, followed by a planning submission next August and demolition of the car park in November. The brownfield site, for which the council has secured £1.3 million of government funding towards demolition and asbestos removal, is expected to be ready for redevelopment in January 2024.
A number of upgrades are required to Mary Arches including structural, surfacing, accessibility and decoration works. The lifts also haven’t worked for over five years; bringing them back into use would cost £240,000 alone.
The report said the proposed regeneration scheme “is in the public interest and will improve the wellbeing of residents in a number of ways,” including by increasing the city’s housing supply, removing the “unattractive and obsolete existing car park” and reducing anti-social behaviour.
“In addition, the site is a key gateway to and from the north of the city and a high-quality scheme will contribute towards the positive forward-looking image of Exeter ensuring it is an attractive place where people choose to live, work, study and visit.”
The closure of the car park will mean the loss of 481 parking spaces in the city centre. However, the report states: “Across the city, there is spare capacity to take up customers when Mary Arches Car Park closes down.”
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Hodgson said part of the site has “significant archaeological interest underneath,” adding: “Therefore it is highly unlikely that that [part] would be disposed of for residential use.”
Responding to questions about what the residential development will consist of, council leader, Cllr Phil Bialyk, said: “I can be clear, if it is the city council’s land, there will be no purpose-built student accommodation.”
He added the finer details were “all a matter that will come forward in a planning application of which we’ve got a consultation charter and we will fully consult with everybody else.” Councillors were told the date of the car park’s closure is still to be finalised, depending on its safety and the confirmed timetable for the project.