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Enhancement of Exeter beauty spot overwhelmingly backed by residents

Published: 8 October 2021

Enhancement of Exeter beauty spot overwhelmingly backed by residents Northbrook Approach golf course off Topsham Road

Residents have overwhelmingly backed proposals to enhance a much-loved green space in the heart of the city following a public consultation, councillors have been told.

The consultation on how best to enhance the former Northbrook Approach golf course off Topsham Road was launched earlier in the year in partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust.

Further work will now take place on delivering the enhancements at Northbrook Park that people have said they want to see in the area.

The Council decided to close the golf course in 2019. It ruled out selling the site or building houses on it and said it wanted to preserve the green open space for public use.

The consultation sought views on proposals for a ‘wild arboretum’ – a space for wildlife habitats with a focus on trees and wildflower meadows - and asked what residents would like to see at the green space and how it should best be enhanced.

More than 750 people took part on the online consultation – and of those 96 per cent backed the proposal of creating a wild arboretum.

At a meeting of the Council’s Executive, were told that the clear message from the various responses to the survey was that people strongly prioritise wildlife enhancement.

Workshops with more than 20 local stakeholders led by DWT provided valuable insights into communities’ thoughts, experiences and concerns, and firmly echoed the results of the survey in their wishes for the site to be maintained as a “peaceful and tranquil” community space.

There was very strong support for a quiet, wildlife-focussed future for the site. Of those who took part, 92 per cent said they would visit in the future to enjoy walks, views and tranquillity.

Protecting the green space and wildlife corridor was the top priority identified for future use, and the top answer for what features residents would like to see in the future was varied habitats, including wildflower meadows.

Presenting the findings to Executive, Peter Burgess, Director of Nature Recovery at Devon Wildlife Trust, said: “Something we’ve recognised is how critical these green spaces have been for everyone during this period.

“Lots of people have found parks for the first time; they’ve explored them and they’re places for quiet relaxation – to rewind, to recharge.”

As well as the arboretum, the proposal includes strengthening the wildlife corridor linking Northbrook with neighbouring Ludwell Valley and Riverside parks, a visitor hub, wildflower meadows with newly planted trees, a community orchard and a project to allow the park’s stream to re-naturalise.

Cllr David Harvey, Lead Councillor for City Management, said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in the consultation – is a great example of partnership.

“This work identifies the commitment of this authority to work with residents, and to be committed to a realistic and pragmatic approach to delivering for our residents. That’s what we do – we deliver for our residents.

“I’m very pleased to bring this forward and I just hope we can now find the funds to deliver the improvements and the upgrades that the people of Exeter have asked for.”

Council Leader Phil Bialyk said: “Right at the start of this administration I met people in the area and assured them that we were not going to build on this land and assured them that we were going to consult on it.

“The report states that the strongest messages for the workshops are that people supported the vision, to prioritise wildlife and for Northbrook Park to remain a tranquil place. I’m so glad that is what people have said they want, and I’m so glad that we delivering that for them. I am very proud of what we have done.”

Proposals for future enhancements include a wild arboretum, with wildflower meadows and newly planted trees, a community orchard for people to nurture and enjoy freshly picked fruit, and a project to allow the stream to re-naturalise, break out of its current channel and create new wetlands, ponds and pools.

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