End of the road in sight

Plymouth’s long-awaited Millbay Boulevard is weeks away from completion - and what a difference is it making.

The work is completely transforming what was once a dingy backwater lane into an airy boulevard which will have homes and businesses along it. And it’s not just on the surface.

Beneath the road, underground tanks have been installed as part of a ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage’ system which are capable of holding 240 tonnes of water - equal in volume to seven standard shipping containers. This will help tackle flooding episodes in this part of the city centre particularly when times of high rainfall coincide with high tides.

Above these tanks, will be ‘rain gardens’ – sunken beds planted with coastal grasses and flowering plants arranged beneath an avenue of trees – these will be irrigated using the rain and flood water.

Councillor Mark Lowry, cabinet member for finance and city centre champion said: “This is an extraordinary project both above and below ground. It is about bringing new life into this part of Plymouth and helping to address potential problems that climate change may bring us in the future. Before we started we looked at what measures we could instigate now to make life that bit easier later on.

"I know there will be people saying so what, what’s in it for me. Well, lots! We are opening up this part of the city to new development, new homes and new businesses. We are strengthening the link between the city centre and the waterfront - which is again good for the city’s economy. And bit by bit we are taking steady steps to help tackle the consequences of climate change.”                                                                                   

The system has been developed by the Council in partnership with the Environment Agency and South West Water as part of the Water Resilient Cities Interreg Programme. 

That’s not all, beneath the ground there is now a District Heating Network with over 600 [SJ1] sq metres of pipework and two thermal boreholes tapping into Plymouth's warm water aquifer.

It means that when developments do progress, the buildings will be able to tap into low carbon energy. This can be rolled out across the city centre in the future.   

The project is one of part of the Council’s Climate Emergency Change Action Plan.

What else has changed?

The Union Street end of the boulevard now has a new public square - using the same distinctive granite paving to give a clear route to Millbay Waterfront at Millbay's Great Western Dock. The work was temporarily suspended for eight weeks in the first lockdown

Some facts and stats about what’s new

  • A 70 metre long x 6.5 metre high separating wall with the Pavilions Arena made of Yennadon Stone - a Devon quarry. Contractors built a new wall inside the complex before a massive redundant ramp could be removed. It meant an eight metre tract of land from the Pavilions could be used to widen Bath Street
  • New landscaping including new pine trees, and 600 sqm of new coastal planting within rain gardens
  • Extension to the city's CCTV system
  • Ducting for future 5G network
  • Infrastructure for two on-street electrical vehicle-charging stations
  • A new setting to future new development sites east and west of Bath Street which would include up to 600 new residential units, offices, a 200-bed hotel, new leisure, cultural and community uses and small scale retailing.

Facts about Millbay Boulevard

  • It’s a quarter of a kilometre in length and links Union Street to Millbay Road
  • It used to be called Bath Street - the new boulevard has doubled the width of the back from approx. 8.5 m to 16.5 m wide
  • New public space - 1,545 square metres - equal to 1.5 football pitches and it is mainly pedestrian
  • 22 direct construction jobs supported over the 16 month contract

The whole project including demolition and supporting associated works is valued at £6 million. Substantial grant support funding from UK Central Government in the form of Land Release Funding;  Homes England, European Region Development Fund from its Water Resilient Cities Interreg 2 seas programme and from its Heatnet programme as well as funding from Plymouth's Council’s planning system, channelling infrastructure growth money collected from city developments.

Creating this link is a long-held aspiration and the Council has been steadily acquiring properties to enable its delivery. Millbay is changing dramatically. There are now blocks of quality homes overlooking the docks, a new school has been established and shops and restaurants are opening up.

As well as a hotel development, up to 300 homes could be lining the new look boulevard, together with shops and offices. The Council is working with Homes England to select a private sector delivery partner to bring forward the housing aspect of the scheme.

What else

  • Planning permission has been granted for the Hotel Moxy on the Pavilions car park site - work is expected to start later this year
  • Planning permission for the 155 bedroom hotel on land at East Quay was granted planning permission in January 2019
  • We are working with Shekinah who currently have a building in Bath Street on ideas for a new community hub. It is really early days