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Armada Way masterplan approved

Tuesday, 20 February 2024 08:37

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Here what it could look like | Image: Plymouth City Council

Plymouth aims to be a top retail centre

Plymouth’s ambitions to be the finest retail centre in the south west will start with the regeneration of Armada Way, city council leader Tudor Evans has proclaimed.

Cabinet members gave full support for the final city centre gateway project, expected to cost in the region of £37 million and which has been subject to one of the biggest public consultations Plymouth has ever seen.

“We want it to be glorious and inspiring and something that excites people,” said Cllr Evans (Lab, Ham). “It’s been a very long road to get here and now it’s time to do.

“Today we are plotting the course to be the finest city centre in the south west peninsula.”

Cabinet member for finance Mark Lowry (Lab, Southway) called it “a do or die”  moment.

“If we don’t do this, the investment and jobs won’t happen, our city centre will struggle and it’s already struggling more than many others commercial centres in our county.”

He said the message from the public and businesses was to just to “get on with it” but the work would be done in phases to cause the “minimum disruption” to trade.

Cllr Lowry added that the estimated costs were “the worse case scenario.”

Further work will now be done to establish the final cost of delivering the scheme and this will be discussed by cabinet members. Exploratory trial pits are currently being dug on Armada Way to get a more accurate picture of what is beneath the surface. When these are finished it will help provide clarity on the scope of the works needed.

A ‘city centre public realm board’ will be set up involving cross-party membership, and quarterly reports on spending against the eventual budget will be presented to the cabinet member for finance.

An overall economic impact assessment will also be undertaken when the project finishes.

The city council says Armada Way, which will have more than 200 trees, a play village, cycle paths, water and wildlife features and ‘pop up’ performance spaces, will be the catalyst for its new vision of “a town within a city.”

It plans to build hundreds of new city centres homes with amenities on the doorstep which will attract investment and business.

Cllr Jemima Laing said the council had “bent over backwards” to make sure everyone was consulted in a “thorough and transparent wa.y”

Ten changes were made to the original scheme after feedback from the public and recommendations from a cross-party scrutiny panel, including improving cycleways and footpaths, and more green spaces and tree varieties to improve biodiversity.

The design also features more of the trees left standing following a mass night-time felling operation by the previous Conservative administration last May. This was part of the Tories regeneration project, but a high court injunction put a stop to it and a huge mess of felled trees blighted the heart of the city for weeks.

Cllr Evans said it had been a tough time for businesses and he didn’t want to “cause any more pain.”

A number of other projects were delayed, with hoardings along the main shopping throughfare over the Christmas period impacting footfall for shopkeepers.

The Armada Way scheme is expected to make the city safer, with enhanced CCTV and lighting. Cllr Sally Haydon (Lab, St Budeaux) said in the past there had been very serious incidents of sexual assaults on women and young girls as wide tree canopies meant offenders could be hidden from cameras.

Councillors said the “huge play village” where children could run, jump, splash, climb and cycle would be very welcome and parents and carers would have places to sit and relax.

Cllr Sue Dann (Lab, Sutton and Mount Gould) said she is looking forward to yoga classes in Armada Way.

The plans include a sustainable drainage system to reduce pollution from storm overflows, solar panel canopies and a water bottle refilling station, plus recycling facilities.

The 700-page report on Armada Way is available on Plymouth City Council’s website.

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