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Turning a brownfield site into a green community

Exeter residents are invited to help shape a new waterside community for the city.

Proposals to create a vibrant new waterside community for the people of Exeter on a large brownfield site in the city will go on show later this month (June 2022).

Land at Water Lane, between Marsh Barton and the Exeter canal, was once the home of a thriving industrial centre but for decades the site has been underused and has been identified for many years by the city council as suitable for a major redevelopment in its Liveable Exeter vision.

Over the last years, many of the plots, including a former meat rendering plant, have been acquired by the Water Lane Development Management Company (DMC).

Now the project team are preparing to invite feedback on initial proposals for a mixed-use community which will provide hundreds of new homes, alongside shops, offices, restaurants and many other facilities for the people of Exeter.

Richard Clarke, of Water Lane DMC, said: “Although the proposals are at an early stage, we would like to start a conversation with neighbours, and people living and working right across the city of Exeter, to help refine our vision of a low-car, low-carbon community, well connected to the city, but also a place where people will be able to live, work and spend their leisure time.

“Exeter is a fantastic city with a great environment, surrounded by some amazing countryside. If it’s to continue to thrive and grow in a way that protects that environment, we must make the best use of underutilised land within the city’s boundaries.”

Water Lane is one of nine sites identified in the city council’s Liveable Exeter programme which promotes a vision for sustainable mixed communities, close to the heart of the city.

A drop-in exhibition of outline proposals for the site is being held at Exeter College’s Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre on Friday, June 24th, from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday, June 25th, from 10am to 4pm. The exhibition material will also be available online at from Friday, June 24th.

Richard added: “We want Water Lane to be a low-car, low-carbon community, which will help meet the challenges of climate change. It’s already a well-connected site. Parts of it are only a 15-minute walk from Exeter High Street, and less than five minutes from Marsh Barton, and yet the beauty of the canal and the Riverside Valley Park are also on the doorstep.

“The new Marsh Barton railway station which is opening soon will also help connect Water Lane with the rest of the city, and we have been discussing with Stagecoach how we can make the best use of electric buses to serve the new residents – as well as existing ones nearby.”

Water Lane DMC is working closely with Co-Cars, which are already prominent and popular in the city, to develop electric car, van and bike-sharing hubs that are embedded within the design concept of the development, to provide genuine alternatives to private car ownership.

Richard said: “If we’re to meet net-zero carbon targets in the fight against climate change, we will all need to change the way we live. We can make this as simple as possible by designing a community that’s fit for the future, with all the necessary infrastructure. 

“In addition to promoting sustainable travel, we’re designing an energy centre to make the best use of solar electricity generated on site, with the aim of being reliant solely on sustainable energy.”

Richard added: “We’re some way off submitting any planning application but it’s important that the local community, and people in Exeter, have an opportunity to be involved in the design of this new and highly sustainable community.

“We’ll be asking what sort of facilities might be needed, what kind of homes and how best to turn a brownfield site into a green community, with a focus on improving the natural and cultural environment.  

“It’s a large area, and like any brownfield site it has its challenges. We look forward to inviting the people of Exeter to help shape the proposals.”

  • A drop-in exhibition is being held at the Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre, Haven Banks, Exeter EX2 8DP on Friday, June 24th, from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday, June 25th, from 10am to 4pm. The venue is served by Stagecoach’s Green Park & Ride service, with the nearest stop at the Haven Banks retail centre.
  • The exhibition material will also be available online at from Friday, June 24th.