Ten key changes are proposed to the final design for Armada Way, following one of the biggest listening exercises the Council has ever undertaken, enabling the scheme to move forward to the next milestone.
In the plans published today, the revised scheme includes retaining over three quarters of the existing trees in Armada Way. Two of the trees that were proposed for translocation have now been incorporated in the proposed final design. In addition, more green space, a better-defined cycle path, more seating and changes to some of the new tree species have been made.
From 17 October to 28 November, residents and businesses were asked for their views on the proposed plans to regenerate Armada Way. A total of 1,503 survey responses were received, with over 96 per cent of respondents living in Plymouth. There were also detailed submissions by local groups and organisations, workshops with under-represented groups and interviews with key stakeholders.
The Council’s independent consultation experts ECF identified a number of key themes that came out of the engagement process. Overall, more nature and greenery was welcomed with specific queries and suggestions relating to translocation, tree species and biodiversity. Parents, grandparents and the business community welcomed the inclusion of the play village. Improved lighting, CCTV coverage and the solar panels were considered positive additions. There were some specific concerns regarding the cycle path and especially how it would interact with pedestrians. Other themes included: ensuring the pop-up spaces would meet logistical requirements, limited seating in the play area and its size, dealing with antisocial behaviour, disability access across all areas, and queries relating to the long-term maintenance plan of the scheme.
Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said: “Over the past few weeks we have been poring over the feedback report to ensure that we consider all the views that were submitted.
“While I have always made it clear that the consultation was not a referendum, I am pleased that on the whole, the message from the people of Plymouth and city centre businesses, has been ‘get on with it’; with the majority of people responding positively and constructively on the proposals.
“Our ambition is to create a city centre for everyone and we have to balance some quite polarised views on certain issues – such as the trees and cycling. However, where there have been suggestions or ideas for improvement, we have carefully considered each of them. We have been able to make changes that I think make the proposals even stronger and I would like to thank those who took the time to respond to the survey in such a thoughtful way.”
Following extensive review of the feedback received through the survey, written submissions and interviews with key stakeholders, the Council is proposing 10 amendments within the final scheme design, which will be scrutinised by the Growth and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 January 2024.
These changes include:
- Retention of two extra existing trees – T007 Cockspur Thorn and T118 – Hybrid Whitebeam which can now be accommodated following changes to the design in their respective locations. This now results in only four trees being translocated from Armada Way to The Park. This responds to the desire of some environmental groups and a large number of individuals who requested that more of the existing trees are retained in their current location to retain canopy cover or fears relating to risk of survival, and or cost of translocating trees.
- Some tree species selection has been modified. This includes changing the proposed single ‘Tree of Heaven’ to a London Plane tree.
- The final design includes an increased amount of accessible green space which is beyond that of the design of the scheme which was consulted on.
- Removal of two east-west pedestrian footpaths to reduce conflict of two separate paths crossing the cycle way at the point of chicane. This will make the space safer for both pedestrians and cyclists.
- Changing of the colour of the granite denoting the cycle way to a dark pink hue to provide a strong visual differentiation to the other pedestrian areas.
- The new scheme will include a considerable amount of extra cycle parking in the form of stands and cycle hoops onto lamp columns.
- Further changes will be made to the pedestrian and cycle wayfinding to enable the cycle way and its use to be very clearly demarcated. This is in addition to the already proposed wayfinding monoliths and in-ground way markers but will include other pedestrian level markers and directional infrastructure. This will make the space safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
- The final scheme includes for the addition of a minimum of one drinking water station on Armada Way which will help reduce the use of single plastics and align with Plymouth’s Plan for Plastics. In addition, fewer plastic bottles could also reduce city centre littering.
- An increased amount of seating has been added to the play village area to ensure that there is enough seating opportunity for parents and carers whose children want to use the facilities. A variety of seating with high backs and arm rests is being added in response to requests from older people
- Defibrillator(s) will be installed on Armada Way. There are currently a number of defibrillators across the wider city centre area, but none on Armada Way directly.
Maintenance was a key concern raised by respondents. Historically, different council teams have been responsible for different areas of the city centre. The Council now proposes a City Centre Public Realm Board be set up to coordinate and monitor all existing budgets. Following a detailed maintenance assessment in Spring 2023 by independent experts, it was clearly demonstrated that more could be done within existing budgets. For the first five years, the Council can maintain the new schemes through more efficient use of these budgets. These can be supplemented with provision within the Armada Way scheme for a five-year maintenance contract starting at the end of practical completion. This will be extended to other Better Places Programme schemes for 12 months and will cover soft landscaping and water features, including the Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme infrastructure and any trees that fail within the first five years.
To ensure full scrutiny and consideration of the proposals, the updated design, along with the ECF consultation report and other detailed background documents will be considered by a special meeting of the Growth and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 22 January 2023, chaired by Councillor Ian Tuffin, before being discussed by Cabinet, ahead of a final decision on the scheme.
The report has been published here – including information about the consultation and feedback. Hard copies of the reports will be available from Tuesday in Central Library on Armada Way, until the committee meeting.
The report asks that the Leader approves changes to the Capital Programme up to a maximum of £22.8m to finance the revised Armada Way scheme to enable the implementation of the final scheme design. In addition to the already approved £14m this gives a maximum spend allocation of £36.8m to the project. This covers the construction works, a bespoke five-year maintenance plan, the translocation of the trees and their ongoing care, new lighting columns, provisions for likely risks that may be encountered, and delivery fees associated with the project.
The new scheme will be funded through the Transforming Cities Fund, the Climate Emergency Investment Fund and from existing resources available within the current capital programme, which will be re-prioritised. However, whilst this funding is being requested, it is anticipated that the final cost of the project will be lower, as other funding sources are explored. When the final contract price is agreed for construction, and various investigatory works have been undertaken, including planned trial pits, the final costs can then be finalised.
Councillor Evans added: “We have always been open about the fact that as our design is more ambitious than the previous proposal, it is likely to cost more money. We are proposing a new Armada Way that has more trees than ever before, from a wide range of species that will give cover and shade. Trees that will thrive in an urban environment and become part of a spectacular new look and feel for the city centre.
“We have included the innovative water drainage system powered by new solar canopies, which will not only help water the trees and planting but will also protect the Sound from pollution. And most exciting, for anyone with children, we have included a new huge play area – enticing families to come to the city centre and spend their time.
“However, since the previous scheme was agreed, there has been a big increase in construction costs globally. Also, there are still some potential unknown costs that we won’t know until we have finished the contract process. Whilst we are hopeful that this will reduce the cost of the scheme, we need to be prepared for all eventualities.
“I believe Plymouth is worth it. We need to re-imagine the city centre for the modern era. By investing in quality we will attract residents, businesses and visitors. Once our city centre has been improved, I am certain that we will see wider investment in our city. This is all part of our long-term ambitions we have for Plymouth.”
On 22 January, the Growth and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Committee will scrutinise the proposals. The views and any recommendations from this cross-party Committee will then be presented to Cabinet on 5 February for consideration.
At a subsequent Cabinet meeting on 19 February, the final scheme will be presented, which will include consideration of the recommendations from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and a final decision will be made.
For more information visit our Armada Way page.