The massive decision has been made on a temporary bus station plan for Exeter – and the major traffic changes that come with it.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of using interim bus stands in the city centre for the 18 months it will take for the city’s new bus station to be built.
Seven stands will be based on Sidwell Street North, five on Sidwell Street South, five on Paris Street and four on Cheeke Street.
Layover bays will be located on Red Lion Lane, Verney Sreet, Bampfylde Street, Paris Street, Summerland Street and Sidwell Street.
Cllr Phil Bialyk, whose portfolio includes the construction of the bus station and St Sidwell’s Point Leisure Complex, said: “I am delighted that we remain on track to deliver this much needed, purpose built bus station for the city.
“We have been keeping businesses and bus users fully informed of our plans, and aim to make the processes as swift and as easy as possible for them.
“A temporary solution will by its very definition, bring challenges. I’m confident the city is ready to pull together to deliver this great facility at such an important gateway to Exeter.”
Discussions will continue with National Express, Megabus and Devon County Council on where long distance coaches should pick up and drop off passengers.
And, subject to Devon County Council approval, a temporary traffic plan will now also be put in place to allow traffic to access two of the Princesshay car parks via Southernhay East.
There will also be a temporary travel centre, ticket sales shop, toilets and driver facilities along with all the necessary signage including those in tactile and braille.
Bob Dennison, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, commented: “It’s great news that a suitable solution for the temporary bus station has now been approved.
“We will continue to work closely with Exeter City Council and other partners to ensure our customers can access our buses easily and safely whilst construction work on the new facility takes place.”
Sian Clarke, who has run Terry’s Café with her husband Terry in Sidwell Street for the past 11 years attended the Sidwell Street information event.
She said: “We think it is very positive. I think that most traders down this end will be pleased because of the rise in footfall they will get. It is going to be good for us.”
However Percy Hamilton-Kendal, owner of Sidwell Street’s Percy’s Fabrics, worries that that smaller businesses without rear access will suffer.
“The council tend to use and abuse Sidwell Street. I have counted seven traffic changes in the 15 years I have been trading.
“I fear for us smaller businesses here which need flexibility for taking our stock and rubbish into vehicles parked on Sidwell Street.”
The temporary changes will need to be in place by March 30 2017, the final date the existing bus station site needs to be vacant.
Highways alteration works in Sidwell Street and Paris Street would begin December at the earliest, with the works in Southernay commencing at the beginning of 2017.
Robert Crawley, chairman of the Exeter & District Bus Users’ Group added: “Knowing Exeter as well as I do, I don’t think there was much alternative for a temporary solution.
“During the rebuilding stage there has to be some disruption. We are pleased that the council seems to be doing its level best to minimise that and to get the best facilities.”
The team working on the scheme will now develop the detailed design and consult with accessibility groups, bus user groups and key partners.
They are looking to identify a suitable travel centre for ticket sales, driver welfare facilities, appoint a highways contractor to undertake the works and make sure the a comprehensive signage strategy is in place to minimise disruption.