The Significance and Potential of Queen’s Crescent Garden
During the initial public consultation stage of the planning process for Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan community agreement on the significance of Queen’s Crescent Garden – the triangle of land bounded by York Road, Longbrook Street and Queen’s Crescent – immediately became evident.
Its position in close proximity to important community facilities of St Sidwell’s C of E Primary School, Exeter Mosque, the Spiritualist Church and the shops in Well Street adds to its potential as a green space where community events can take place; a significant part of the Neighbourhood Plan’s vision for this whole area as the Community Hub forming a much-needed heart of the community that will strengthen St James’ image and identity as a vibrant and diverse community.
The regeneration of a community such as St James requires changed perceptions and an increase in the confidence of people to invest in the area whether by converting HMOs back to private family homes, thus redressing issues of balance, or by setting up businesses. As a visually prominent green space, the appearance of Queen’s Crescent Garden has the potential to significantly affect perceptions for better or worse.
The sad decline of the garden with no apparent owner, crumbling walls, accumulations of rubbish and frequent use for antisocial activity had long been a source of concern and regret: an embarrassingly visible sign of the run-down state of too much of St James. Despite the community’s efforts over time to combat this decline a more radical transformation was deemed necessary.
The Role of the Neighbourhood Plan
During the neighbourhood planning process between 2011 and 2013, the importance of this piece of land to the community was given statutory recognition following request to Exeter City Council. Using new power granted by the Localism Act the garden was designated as Local Green Space, ensuring that its intrinsic community value is recognised and protected. Not satisfied with accepting the status quo any longer, the community identified the improvement of Queen’s Crescent Garden as the top priority of all projects to improve the neighbourhood. When the Neighbourhood Plan was adopted by Exeter City Council in July 2013, with a policy specifically covering the Garden, the Queen’s Crescent Garden Project Group was immediately appointed with the task of fulfilling the community’s desire.
To achieve the transformation of the garden and to secure its management on behalf of the community in perpetuity, two stages for the project were identified: Stage One being the essential preliminary work before actual regeneration on the ground in Stage Two. First, however, a body corporate was required to take on the title to the land once it had been acquired by Exeter City Council (ECC) following a compulsory purchase order (CPO); hence, the birth of Exeter St James Community Trust Ltd.
|2013||• adoption of Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan including Policy EN4 specific to QCG|
|• initial ECC New Homes Bonus funding for Stage One secured|
|• appointment of LDA Design, landscape architects, via competitive tender|
|2014||• series of public consultations on plans for QCG concept design|
|• incorporation of Exeter St James Community Trust Ltd|
|• publication of the QCG Masterplan|
|2015||• planning consent to change QCG from private to public use|
|• commencement of CPO to acquire QCG by Exeter City Council|
|2016||• CPO published|
|• DCLG Pocket Park funding awarded|
|• ground clearance, creation of new entrance and some perimeter wall restoration|
|2017||• ECC Grass Roots award (New Homes Bonus Fund) and DCC funding secured|
|2018||• CPO completed|
|• the Trust assumed legal responsibility for QCG via 125 year lease from ECC|
|• further work on boundary wall restoration|
|2019||• planning approval granted for internal landscaping|
|2020/21||• completion of all new entrances and boundary walls with railings|