Work begins on £7m plan to redevelop Plymouth city centre

Work is starting on a “refresh” of a key part of Plymouth city centre as part of a £7m investment.

Construction teams will move into the area around Old Town Street and New George Street where the dated eighties landscaping is going to be removed and in its place will be features designed to make the area look brighter and nicer. They include

Better links between Drake Circus Shopping Centre and The Barcode leisure and cinema multiplex.

Islands of greenery.

New play area with stepping-stones through the gardens, bringing “a touch of the moors” into the city centre.

Places to sit and rest.

A small performance area.

New tree planting carefully arranged to allow clear sightlines to shopfronts.

Ornamental “rain garden” planting with more sustainable urban drainage.

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The taxi rank has already been relocated to a new area directly outside the entrance of Drake Circus on Eastlake Street. Another rank has also been created at St Andrew’s Cross.

Phase one will begin from lower New George Street, from Armada Way to the House of Fraser service yard in November, then phase 2, from upper New George Street and Old Town Street to St. Andrews Cross, will get under way in January 2022.

Plymouth City Council has appointed Mildren Construction to carry out the work and next week fencing and hoarding will be put up around a site between the Sundial and the end of the House of Fraser building, enabling contractors to get cracking with preliminary works which entails digging down into the main sewage system.

After talking to shop owners and traders, the bulk of the scheme will not get under way until after the crucial Christmas shopping period.

The project team has drawn up a timetable of work which aims to minimise the impact of the work as far as possible. Existing service yards will be accessible in the run up to Christmas for deliveries

Council leader Nick Kelly (Conservative), said: “We wanted to avoid the Christmas rush as much as possible, so have listened to our traders. No one wants interruption but we hope this scheme will make this important part of our retail heart a lot brighter and more attractive.

“It will not only look better, but it will be greener – not just with more trees. The scheme includes a sustainable drainage system which means rainwater will not just end up in the sewers but will be diverted to water plants. It’s another measure to help tackle climate change.”

Steve Hughes, chief executive of the Plymouth City Centre Company, said: “It’s great to see so much investment in our city centre. This area was looking tired and needed to change. I am pleased that the project team has been listening to the businesses and I’m sure they will continue to do this throughout the course of the work.”

The work has been funded through the Transforming Cities Fund to the tune of £6,529,468 as the scheme also has wide clear routes, better visibility and improved signage for cyclists. The Heart of the South West LEP also contributed £700,000.

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the SW LEP, said: “Investing in our local high streets and town and city centres is vital to ensure they remain attractive and accessible for residents, businesses and visitors.

“The work being undertaken by the council around Old Town Street and New George Street will not only significantly enhance the experience for anyone visiting, but it will also introduce measures that improve the local area’s sustainability. We are delighted to have been able to support this work with £700k funding from the Heart of the SW LEP’s Growth Deal.”

How to contact William Telford and Business Live

Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.

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Completion of the entire project is anticipated in late 2022. In 2017 the Government announced the creation of the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) with the aim of driving up productivity and spreading prosperity through investment in public and sustainable transport in some of the UK’s largest city regions.

Investing £1.26bn in walking, cycling and public transport, the funding focused on inter-city connectivity, making it quicker and easier for people to get around and access jobs. After a competitive process, Plymouth was one of 12 cities selected for this fund. In March 2020 it received £51.2m in capital funding from the Transforming Cities Fund.

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William TelfordBusiness Editor, Plymouth Live