Backing for bid to replace Mary Arches Street car park in Exeter with 100-home development

A multi-story car park in Exeter city centre car park is set to be demolished and replaced with around 100 homes. 

The Mary Arches Street facility is ‘unattractive and obsolete’ and needs a £3.8million makeover to ‘extend its usable life’, according to city council chiefs.

Members of the authority’s executive have backed redeveloping the site as a ‘residential-led mixed-use scheme’ of around 100 dwellings with commercial use on the ground floor.

The decision will need to be rubber-stamped at a full Exeter City Council meeting in December. If approved, the car park could close before January, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

A report by  finance director Dave Hodgson said a public consultation on the site’s future will then start in the new year.

This will be followed by a planning application in August 2023 and demolition of the car park in November next year.

The brownfield site, for which the council has secured £1.3 million of government funding towards demolition and asbestos removal, is expected to be ready for redevelopment in January 2024.

A number of upgrades are required to Mary Arches including structural, surfacing, accessibility and decoration works.

The lifts also haven’t worked for over five years; bringing them back into use would cost £240,000 alone.

The report said the proposed regeneration scheme ‘is in the public interest and will improve the wellbeing of residents in a number of ways’.

This includes increasing the city’s housing supply, removing the ‘unattractive and obsolete existing car park’ and reducing antisocial behaviour.

“In addition, the site is a key gateway to and from the north of the city and a high-quality scheme will contribute towards the positive forward-looking image of Exeter ensuring it is an attractive place where people choose to live, work, study and visit,” said the report.

The closure of the car park will mean the loss of 481 spaces in the city centre.

However, the report added: “Across the city, there is spare capacity to take up customers when Mary Arches car park closes down.”

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Hodgson said part of the site has ‘significant archaeological interest underneath’, adding: “Therefore it is highly unlikely that that [part]would be disposed of for residential use.”

Responding to questions about what the residential development will consist of, council leader Phil Bialyk  said: “I can be clear, if it is the city council’s land, there will be no purpose-built student accommodation.”

He added the finer details were ‘all a matter that will come forward in a planning application of which we’ve got a consultation charter and we will fully consult with everybody else’.

Councillors were told the date of the car park’s closure is still to be finalised, depending on its safety and the confirmed timetable for the project.

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