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City centre improvement project restarts

City Centre

Work is restarting this week on the Old Town Street New George Street improvement scheme.

Contractors Morgan Sindall are moving onto site for the next phase of the work to get underway.

This is the second phase of a three part project and involves further enabling works ahead of the main landscaping phase. There will also be more work beneath the surface of the street, including deep drainage and connections for the rainwater and drainage systems as part of the rain garden and sustainable urban drainage system.

This work is below ground – above ground the tired eighties landscaping has been removed and the plan is for a modern brighter more environmentally friendly public space. As well as a new play area, features include new islands of greenery, places to sit and rest, a small performance area as well as new trees and plants.

The contractors will also be putting up hard hoardings around the site to hide the construction work and make the location look better.

And some big, bold designs with a nod to Plymouth’s past and future will be popping up around the site and elsewhere.

The bold design is the brainchild of local design agency 51 Studio who were commissioned by the Council to come up with something to add colour, creativity and a talking point to the city centre while a host of projects to make the city look and feel better get underway.

Plymouth Hoardings

The agency used the simple shapes from the original Plan for Plymouth as well as features from Plymouth’s distinctive architecture to create simple eye-catching patterns which will appear in various guises across the city centre as schemes get underway. It will also include illustrations of the work that’s planned.

Councillor Jonathan Drean, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “We’d like to thank people – particularly the businesses – for their patience and I’m sure they will be as pleased as I am to see work restarting to create this amazing new feel to our city centre.

“We want to make the city look as good as possible while improvement works are ongoing. These new hoardings will not only help camouflage some unsightly work, but they will also give people a sense of Plymouth’s history, as well as emphasising the unique nature of the city’s architecture.”

City Centre manager Steve Hughes added: “We are all working phenomenally hard to make the city a lively and exciting place to visit – not just to shop, but to catch up with friends, enjoy music, food and drink or events that take place in the Piazza and Frankfort Gate. “These graphics all add a bit of colour and interest to the mix.”

Huge changes are underway in the city centre. Like other cities, Plymouth has seen a shift in shopping habits post pandemic, with major retailers going out of business, including Debenhams, leaving shops empty, footfall down. Many people are still shopping online.

But Plymouth is not just about shopping. We want our city centre to be buzzing in the evenings, to be a place where people work, play, eat and sleep as well as shop.

While we’ve lost some old High Street names, more businesses are popping up – from axe throwing to cafes – in fact more new businesses have opened than have closed.

New hotels are now in Plymouth and more are on their way – work is progressing well on the Moxy, for instance. More people are living in the city centre – which is exactly what we want to see.

The city also needs to respond to the threat of climate emergency – and encourage everyone to get greener on the go – with better routes and paths for cyclists and walkers, stronger public transport links and reduced reliance on the private car.

These schemes are all about reviving and rejuvenating the city centre and the Old Town Street New George Street improvement project is the first. Civic Square will get a makeover as part of Plymouth’s High Street Heritage Action Zone, a partnership between Historic England and the Council and will see the restoration of important heritage features as well as new additions to make cycling, walking and public transport more attractive.

Detailed design work is underway for a radical new look for Armada Way, which will start at the end of the year.  At the same time a number of transport schemes – including small changes to Mayflower Street and more significant improvements to Royal Parade will start as part of Plymouth’s Transforming Cities Fund programme. The aim is to persuade people out of their cars and to more sustainable travel – including buses, e-cars, bikes and walking.

The Council has also been awarded significant funding from the Future High Streets Fund to transform key buildings – the Civic and the Guildhall – and give them a new lease of life.