For many years, Exeter City Council has been discussing what to do with the site of the present bus station, which has passed its "best before date". There is a strong lobby for a new theatre; however, there is a need to replace the ageing swimming pool, which is also no longer at its best. So, the council has agreed plans for a new pool, on the bus station site. Nonetheless, the lobbyists for a theatre and the lobbyists against spending money to build a new swimming pool remain vocal. In exasperation I wrote a letter to the Express and Echo, the city's newspaper and it was published today (9th April 2015). The site is in the map below. It is on the edge of the St Leonard's area
Exeter Cathedral is off the map to the south-west.
Here is my letter:
I am confused. For years, I thought that the centre or heart of Exeter was in the High Street or near the Cathedral. Now I find that the proponents and opponents of the new swimming pool insist that the site of the new building will be at the heart of Exeter.
I suspect that it will surprise many residents and visitors to be told that Paris Street roundabout (or a site overlooking it) is at the centre of our city. Most visitors will not have given the roundabout a second glance as they negotiate the traffic on their way to the city's historic heart, or the shops or the car parks.
Despite the obvious importance of Paris Street roundabout to those visitors to the city who want to see the heart of Exeter, guide books to the city do not appear to mention it at all. There is no literature about it in the Tourist Information Centre, and as yet, no Redcoat guided tours include it - a very serious omission!
So, for the benefit of visitors and residents, here is a brief description of the buildings and facilities that surround this iconic site. On one side is a car, coach and bus park attached to the bus station. On the adjacent corner is a twenty-first century building housing a multiplex cinema, a car park and flats; there is no other structure in the city quite like this. On the next corner, two buildings vie for interest. One is a mid-twentieth century office block, housing the Jobcentre and beside that is a modern hotel, one of a national chain. Crossing the road from there one reaches a block of sheltered housing, adjacent to Exeter's very popular (but dated) indoor swimming pool. In the final corner is an inn, currently closed, probably because it could not cope with the large number of visitors at this must-see spot in the city. A short walk from the roundabout in one direction will bring the interested visitor to the doors of a further twenty-first century building, a factory site now given to housing students. Walk in the opposite direction, and you come to the Barnfield Theatre, conveniently sited within walking distance of the heart of Exeter.
St Leonard's, Exeter
The sentence in italics was not printed; did the editor think that it might be a red rag to a bull of pro-theatre lobbyists? I wonder!