Council invests in future of city

Two development schemes that will revitalise Plymouth city centre and lever in £55 million of private investment are to get crucial support from the Council.

Cabinet papers are being published today (Wednesday) which recommends the Council helps fund the first phase of a project to transform the upper end of Old Town Street and New George Street East.

A second paper proposes the Council contributes £4.5 million towards public realm work at the Civic Centre including restoring the Civic Square as part of the exciting regeneration redevelopment, which will bring new, non-retail uses into the city centre.

The proposed scheme in Old Town Street and New George Street East aims to give a fresh feel to a tired location ahead of new developments – Drake Circus Leisure development at Bretonside and the Box on North Hill opening.

It is a collaboration between British Land (who own Drake Circus and the buildings which house the House of Fraser and Debenhams) and the Council, with the Council agreeing to carry out public space improvements.

Key features include:

  • Better connection between Drake Circus and Drake Circus Leisure, a key route through to The Barbican
  • Space for on-street retail – British Land are proposing a number of small pavilions
  • New modern seating

The new look could see more trees and gardens planted that make the most of Plymouth’s 20th century modernist architecture. Spaces will also be created to encourage small events and places to linger or meet up

Cabinet Member for Finance and city centre champion Councillor Mark Lowry said: “We are seeing big and exciting changes in Plymouth’s city centre and our pedestrian spaces need to reflect that. This scheme is clearing the clutter, making it more attractive, more modern and refreshing the feel of the street so that we can continue to attract investment from retail brands.”

Councillor Lowry added: “The High Street is facing unprecedented challenges and we need to work with partners who have considerable experience of operating in this environment to help the city up its game.”

Extensive public consultation on the public realm proposals was carried out last Spring and feedback has informed the designs for Old Town Street/ New George Street including more trees, more seating and removing the portal archways.

The recommendation is to allocate just over £10 million to the Council’s capital programme to fund the work.

The second Cabinet report proposes a £4.5 million contribution towards refreshing the public space around the Civic Centre including restoring the Civic Square as part of the redevelopment.

Developers Urban Splash are currently finalising details of the £35m project, which could see the upper floors of the 14 storey tower turned into 144 apartments for private sector rent, a roof garden for residents and restaurant space on the ground and first floors and refurbished public realm.  A full planning application is expected to be submitted shortly.

Councillor Lowry added:  “We get asked time and again what are we, the Council, doing to help the city centre. We are taking decisive action to help make these incredible schemes happen. The success of these projects are critical to the look and feel of the city centre for the next few decades.  We all want Plymouth to be a better place to visit, shop and enjoy – it needs to look the part.”

The Grade II Civic Centre was opened in 1962, vacated by the Council in 2014 and sold to Urban Splash in 2015. The space beneath the Civic Centre extended across Armada Way to the Guildhall was designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe as the ‘Civic Square’ and is a Grade II Registered Park and Garden. The Council retains the adjoining Council Chamber.

The Council contribution towards public realm improvement will help with the overall viability and delivery and improve the links between the restored building, its ground floor restaurants and the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

The Council committed to a long term investment in the public spaces in the City Centre Masterplan. To help shape this, a design framework, Better Places Plymouth and funds were identified in the capital programme.

Better Places Plymouth aimed to address under-investment, to transform the look and feel of the city centre; to support and lever in further inward investment in retail, leisure, employment and housing; to bolster local pride in the city centre; and to enhance the overall experience and perceptions of the city centre.