South Street’s Proposed Face Lift
Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson
Now, I may be biased, but I think Exeter (and Devon in general) is a pretty fantastic place to live. Having moved here eight years ago for University with no intention of staying past my three year degree, Exeter got its hooks into me. I couldn’t be happier in saying that I have never left.
So it was with excitement that I clicked on the Facebook link that my editor had shared with me, detailing regeneration plans for Exeter’s South Street. I was greeted with an artist’s impression of what the redevelopment will look like. Plenty of trees, I thought with a smile. Then I noticed the lack of cars.
This aspect, and the aspect that most local media platforms has jumped on, is the sticking point for many. The plans to rejuvenate South Street include partially pedestrianising the street. Cars would be banned during daylight hours, meaning that the city centre would become more people-focused.
I could hear the moans and groans in my head instantly. Arguably, I could be a part of them as I commute to work via South Street. However, I am more than aware that this isn’t my only route to work and in all honesty, many pedestrians at the crossing on South Street already treat it like a car-free zone!
Michael Carson, City Surveyor commented:
“It is considered that the removal of vehicle traffic during the core daytime trading hour of 9 -6pm would have a profound effect upon the usage of the streetscape, allowing flexible and safer pedestrian flows.
South Street is an important part of the city. The street needs to create its own identity and clarify its function, and can potentially act as an important link between the city centre and Exeter Quayside.” (Radio Exe)
Another aspect of the proposed plans is the closing of selected on-street parking bays to allow local traders to use parts of the street for external seating. I can still hear a bit of groaning in the background from the city’s car drivers and hope that the council have accounted for this by putting additional parking in other areas. As a whole, this idea seems like a fantastically positive step to increasing the popularity of food and drink culture in Exeter. Independent businesses in particular will be able to compete more effectively with the chains on Cathedral Green as they will be able to offer seating for sun worshippers and pet owners.
Grants for building enhancement may also be considered in the proposed plans. Façades and shop fronts could be given a face-lift to improve the aesthetic of South Street and make it a more welcoming place for locals and visitors to shop, eat, drink and generally enjoy the charm that Exeter has to offer.
Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture, Rachel Sutton commented on the improvement plans saying:
“It is clearly in need of some improvement and modernisation, which much of the city centre has experienced in recent years, and these exciting proposals would certainly breathe new life into the area. With some imagination and careful planning, it is possible to create a thriving retail and residential area, which gives priority to pedestrians and cyclists, and provides much better links to the Quay. I look forward to these proposals progressing.” (Devon Live)
Another exciting part of the proposal brings plans to support local traders to organise a South Street Festival. With the Fore Street Flea Markets gaining in success and the weekly Farmer’s Market held at the top of South Street a staple part of Exeter’s food and drink culture, this seems a positive move to support local businesses and create exciting experiences for Exeter visitors.
There is much yet to be considered as the plans for South Street are put together, with key issues surrounding parking and traffic at the forefront. As someone who enjoys Exeter both as a pedestrian and a car driver (well, enjoying it as a driver might be a bit much) the plans to rejuvenate such a significant part of the city are exciting. With my own home town, Cheltenham, having a largely pedestrianised centre I know the benefits that this can bring to our city’s infrastructure. And, in all honesty, more places to sit out and enjoy the sun has to go down as a positive in my books.