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Leaders Column - Exeter is performing better than most city centres

Published: 14 July 2022

Leader Monthly Column Councillor Philip Bialyk, Leader of the Council

It was great to welcome the Exeter Chiefs Women’s Team to the Guildhall recently to celebrate their successful season in winning the Allianz Cup, and we are all very proud of their achievements and success.

Read more: More celebrations as Exeter Chiefs Women parade through city

I also welcome the success of Exeter College Netball Academy, which became the first ever college team in the UK to win three national competitions in one season.

Read more: Unprecedented netball success recognised by Lord Mayor of Exeter

Talking of success, it was great to see St Sidwell’s Point receive two awards from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Planning Excellence Awards last week. We already know what a fantastic facility this is for Exeter, but it is great to see that it is now being showcased on a regional and national level, and I am quite sure there will be plenty more awards to come.

Since it opened in April the centre has been very well received by those using it, and it’s great to see it being enjoyed by so many families. The investment that has gone in to this project is really paying off and will provide the city with a great legacy.

Read more: St Sidwell’s Point wins prestigious planning award

The Council recently completed the purchase of the Guildhall Shopping Centre and I am so pleased we have been able to do this. It brings the centre under the control of the Council and the people of Exeter.

In the short term we will maintain the vibrant retail and hospitality offer and investment in further improvements. In the longer term we will be able to repurpose part of this site for urban living, to create much-needed new city centre homes. Again, we have given the commitment that it won’t be used for purpose-built student accommodation.

We have allocated money to demolish the old bus station and we will be able to repurpose this site, in conjunction with businesses and appropriate groups in Exeter, to allow temporary uses like shops, markets and stalls while we bring forward our long term CityPoint plans.

Read more: Exeter’s former bus station is set to be demolished

It is our aim to repurpose our city centre at a time when other city centres across the country are failing. The latest figures reveal Exeter is performing better than most. The total number of visitors for the year so far is 10.98 million – an increase of 61.6 per cent on the previous year. Although still slightly below the pre-pandemic levels, the figures reveal Exeter has recovered much more strongly than both the South West and UK average. This is something to be very proud of.

At long last we have commenced the demolition of the former Clifton Hill sports centre, and this will make way for the construction of new family homes created by our development company Exeter City Living. At the same time we are progressing our plans for quality new social housing at Vaughan Road, and I very much welcome these developments.

Read more: Demolition of redundant sports centre to create new city centre homes

We remain committed to rolling out the expansion of our kerbside recycling collections. We will be rolling this out despite the Government’s inaction. We have three new all electric waste vehicles about to start operations, which is great news for our plans to cut carbon emissions.

At the last Executive a paper was presented outlining the City’s Net Zero 2030 challenge. The Council is continuing with its plans to make the authority Net Zero by 2030, and the paper urges businesses and other partners to join us in that quest. It sets out the challenges that we have all got to face if we are to achieve a Net Zero City by 2030.     

With everything that is happening with the Government at the moment I am worried that any possible County Deal - which would see much-needed new investment into our locality - may well be delayed. But we cannot let the Government’s inaction and delay stop us from investing in our city and carrying on with our plans for Exeter.

The cost of living crisis is a major issue for all of us. The Council has received small amounts of funding which we will help to support those families who are most in need of support, and we will continue to ensure we target those in need.

Spiralling energy costs will remains a major challenge for all of us. This is why I am so keen to continue our programme of retrofitting Council homes in Exeter.

By the end of this year we expect to have retrofitted around 600 homes, saving carbon through significantly lowering energy use and ensuring residents save money on fuel bills. This is something that I would like available to all families in Exeter, and we will continue to explore ways in which we can achieve this.

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