The Crown Estate and its partner TH Real Estate have today announced that they are no longer able to progress the proposed extension to the Princesshay shopping centre in Exeter due to current market conditions.
The proposals, first submitted for planning approval in July 2015, had included a redevelopment of the bus and coach station site into new restaurants, shops and a cinema.
The partnership was committed to providing a successful development for Exeter, which required the right mix of shops and restaurants to take the space. Unfortunately in the current market, many retailers and restaurateurs are now more cautious about making new commitments, particularly in proposed developments, which take time to build and therefore require a commitment several years ahead.
Both partners remain committed to Exeter City and to the existing Princesshay shopping centre, which continues to be a fantastic retail and restaurant destination, with recent lettings to Lush and New Look Men.
John Grinnell, Deputy Head of Development and Project Management at The Crown Estate, said: “We know this is disappointing news for many people, including for our own team who have been working hard for over two years, along with a team of architects, agents and advisors, to try to make this project work.
"We want to be clear that we remain as committed as ever to Exeter and to the existing Princesshay centre, which is a fantastic shopping and restaurant destination in its own right. We’re now looking at what more we can do at Princesshay to further enhance the experience for shoppers and will continue to work closely with the Council and others in the area to help achieve this.”
Exeter City Council leader Pete Edwards said he intends that a new bus station and new leisure facility will progress.
In a statement, he said: “The Crown Estate/TH Real Estate have informed us they are no longer able to proceed with their plans for the redevelopment of the city centre site. They cited market conditions when we visited them in person on Friday.
“In addition, negotiations over the tender for our scheme have proved difficult - with a risk that costs could escalate further. This is unacceptable to us. Therefore I intend to ask the council to retender, with a view to addressing design implications imposed by The Crown Estate/TH Real Estate’s withdrawal.
“This is likely to have an impact on the timeline by around a year - potentially opening now in 2020.
“Our resolve and ambition, to create a strong city centre, remains.
“I am calling a special council meeting to discuss the way forward with colleagues to reaffirm our commitment to a new bus station and leisure centre where we intended it to be. Now more than ever, I am determined the bus station and new flagship leisure facilities will take place. The bus station will close as expected.
“We however need to take a short pause to reflect on these events - and also to work through potential options to bring the whole site to completion.
“I would like to thank you for all your support so far and anticipated support in the coming months as we continue to do everything in our gift to deliver a project the city deserves.”
Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, leader of the Conservative Group on Exeter City Council, said: “This is a disaster for the people of Exeter, brought about by Labour’s chronic mishandling of a vanity project they are intent on pursuing.
“At a special council meeting to agree the new, exorbitant £40million budget for the swimming pool and bus station, the Conservative Group tabled a motion calling for a pause and a rethink of the plans, but this was defeated and Labour blundered on.
“The scheme has already cost the taxpayer over £4million and now Labour want to retender and continue with the £40million project, using more taxpayer money to borrow £7million.
“As everyone knows, the Labour Party are very good at spending other people’s money.
“We also have the prospect of an empty and derelict part of the city centre while they wonder what to do next. Exeter deserves better than this.
“The Conservative Group has always objected to the cost and location of the swimming pool as well as the closure of Paris Street.
“Working with the residents of Exeter, we will explore new and exciting ideas for the space that will have something for everyone.
“It is essential we have a new bus station that is big enough and fit for purpose, while we would also like to see a competition-size swimming pool built on an alternative, more suitable site.”
Exeter bus station will close as expected next month.
For more information visit http://www.princesshay.co.uk/development/