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Exeter leisure centre blooms and benefits the environment

Published: 18 May 2023

Flowers outside St Sidwell's Point

People visiting St Sidwell’s Point or passing the leisure centre can now enjoy the first blooms of spring - thanks to planting that not only looks good but benefits the environment.

Planting carried out last summer outside the facility in Paris Street is now starting to look spectacular.

Flowers and shrubs have been carefully selected to remove pollution from the environment and increase biodiversity.

Pollinators like bees and butterflies will thrive on the flowers and some of the plants are especially effective at absorbing pollution.

Nick Mead, Commercial Operations Manager for the Council’s Public Realm team, said: “Some plants are especially effective at taking up pollutants, whether by absorbing gaseous pollutants through their stomata, drawing in heavy metals through their roots, or channelling and depositing particulates in their leaves.

"In addition, vegetation enhances biodiversity (for example, by using plants beneficial to pollinators), captures storm water, reduces flooding, and lessens the urban heat island effect.”

St Sidwell's Point is the UK’s first ultra-low energy Passivhaus leisure centre and the planting outside sets out to match these environmental credentials.

This heat island effect was much in evidence during planting as the team fought against compacted soils and extremely high temperatures, having to use mattocks to break up the ground for individual plants.

Watering regimes then needed to be increased during the rest of the summer drought to help establishment.

Despite the constraints, the planting survived and has flourished over subsequent seasons. It is now coming into full colourful flush, providing much needed pollen and nectar and helping remove traffic related pollutants from the nearby roads.

Wildflower turf has recently been installed along the bus station fence line which, once established will be a haven for bees and butterflies.

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