Princesshay, Exeter - the evolution of a streetscape-based retail scheme


The new Princesshay in Exeter was opened on 20 September 2007 to much acclaim. An open streetscape based area with 60 shop, cafés and restaurants anchored by a new flagship Debenhams, the layout of the scheme owes much to the historic street patterns and underlying archaeology into which the scheme was stitched.

Over 10 years in the making, the current streetscape-based scheme was not always the one envisaged, but the contextual analysis and conservation area studies commissioned by Land Securities and Exeter City Council set the pattern of the retail centre required by the city. At the same time masterplanning progressed to assess the appropriate configuration of the required retail space. It soon became clear that only by a bold and dramatic change in access arrangements would the opportunities in the scheme be maximised.

To free up the maximum area for development a new access into an existing basement car park was driven down across Southernhay. This also required the closure of through traffic in this conservation area, thereby removing around 6000 vehicles per day from the commercial centre.

In turn this new access arrangement permitted pedestrianisation of all of the central retail development area opening up once again tranquil walkways along the historic city wall. A further key to the opening up of the scheme was the provision of walkway linkages from the business district in Southernhay, through the middle of the new scheme to the High Street. Early completion of the required highway infrastructure then enabled development to proceed with relatively little disruption to the city centre through the 36 month construction period.

Ian Awcock
WSP Development & Transportation Consultants