Historic Exeter deserves better

An incongruously large development planned for Exeter would greatly overshadow the surrounding low-rise historic townscape

A panorama of the city of Exeter taken from the roof of the north tower of the cathedral. Image Credit: Smalljim.

A panorama of the city of Exeter taken from the roof of the north tower of the cathedral. Image Credit: Smalljim.

The Victorian Society has objected to proposed plans to build two blocks on the site of the Harlequins shopping centre within Exeter’s Central Conservation Area – which is characterised by predominantly low-rise 18th and 19th century buildings.

The plans involve the demolition of the 1980s Harlequins Centre, which although not an architecturally significant building, it is relatively respectful of the surrounding townscape in terms of scale, and attempts to transition between the bulkier Guildhall shopping centre and the more modest buildings to the north and east. The proposed development, in contrast, would consist of two comparatively massive 7-storey blocks and have a highly negative impact on the surrounding streets within the conservation area, overshadowing the buildings, and obscuring the low-rise townscape of this area of the city. One of the buildings which would have its setting harmed would be the Grade II-listed Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Similarly, the nearby Grade II-listed Dispensary building to the north would effectively be dwarfed by the development behind it.

Olivia Stockdale, Conservation Adviser for the The Victorian Society, states, ‘We have no objection to the principle of developing the site, but local planning authorities should look for proposals within Conservation Areas which, as the National Planning Policy Framework states, “enhance or better reveal their significance.” It is our view that the current proposal, rather than enhancing the significance, would instead damage it by nature of its massing and scale. The surrounding streets of low-rise buildings would be overshadowed, and other prominent buildings within the conservation area, undermined.’

The Victorian Society urge Exeter City Council to refuse consent for this scheme. Not only would the proposed development be grossly out of scale with its surroundings, it would set a precedent for further comparatively tall buildings in the area to be erected.



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