QCG Handover

Last updated: 29th July 2018

Handover of Queen's Crescent Garden to the Community


The final countdown has begun! Exeter City Council (ECC) and Exeter St James Community Trust (the Trust) have now legally committed to completion of Lease by 30 June! This is great news for all who live and work in St James and especially for all those whose votes in the neighbourhood planning community-wide consultations of 2011 – 2012, resulted in the project to secure Queen’s Crescent Garden (QCG) as the community's own space and to transform it as a beautiful space in the heart of the community, being named as the community's top priority project.



Thanks to goodwill and dogged determination on the part of both ECC and the Trust, to persevere through the complicated Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) process, and to ensure all necessary conditions were met, overcoming all obstacles along the way, yellow notices appeared in February, tied to lamp posts in the vicinity of the Garden, advertising a final General Vesting Declaration stage. This is the final of three stages of a CPO that by law have to be advertised, and it is anticipated that the purchase by Exeter City Council and immediate transfer of responsibility to the Trust will proceed on or before 30 June 2018!

It is hoped that many, many individuals and groups will want to enjoy using our pocket park, though it is essential to understand that, having legal responsibility for what goes on there in the future, the Trust will be required to sanction events / activities which take place there.

Over the last year detailed and constructive negotiations between ECC and the Trust have taken place, finally resulting in agreement over the wording of the 125 year Lease, notably underpinned by a £50000 New Homes Bonus grant from ECC as a 'dowry' in recognition of certain associated financial implications over the long term. Thus satisfied, appointed Trust Directors were able to sign a legally binding Agreement for Lease in February, a pre-requisite placed upon them by ECC prior to the advertisement of the final stage of the CPO.

The Trust is very grateful to Exeter City Council whose goodwill and active involvement has been fundamentally important. Thanks go to Karime Hassan - CEO, Peter Hearn - Principal Project Manager (Strategic Infrastructure Planning/City Development), the Estates, Legal and Planning Departments and Council Members who have demonstrated unanimous support at significant points along the way. Thanks also to our City Councillors who have been right behind us every step of the way, working in unison and intervening as appropriate to add their invaluable support at various stages of the political process. The Trust would also like to thank Keith Biggs, Partner and planning solicitor of OTB Eveling Ltd, who has been acting for the Trust at a generously reduced fee.

What next for the Community’s Masterplan Transformation?

Preparations are already being put in place to commence the next phase of work as soon as possible after the Lease is in place. A topographical survey is being used to inform working drawings for the further two new entrances, and a tree survey will be undertaken to obtain expert advice regarding the health of the remaining trees and their life expectancy. Sadly as many of you will have noticed, a number of trees have been felled over recent years as they have been condemned for safety reasons. The community's chosen design option that was developed into the Masterplan in 2014, retained the best of the existing trees as well as planting more, and it is hoped that those identified for retention will be given the necessary clear bill of health and life expectancy.

With the information from these two surveys under our belt, it maybe that alternatives to certain aspects of the community's Masterplan of 2014, will need to be considered by the community, but it is envisaged that the restoration of the remaining perimeter walls and creation of the two further entrances will commence later this summer with funding already secured for this phase, including, notably, £50000 ECC Grass Rootsgrant, and two awards from Devon County Council - £5000 'Locality Budget' and £5286 'Investing in Devon'. An application to the Exeter Chiefs 'Exeter Foundation' for a further £12000 grant that would fund railings on a section of wall, has been submitted – the outcome is awaited!

Further applications will be made and, if successful, we hope that the momentum created when the next phase gets underway, may continue until the whole transformation is complete!

Welcome support from business

Two local businesses located in Hem's Court on the doorstep of QCG have also demonstrated enthusiastic support for the project and a willingness to become involved. Sands Civil and Structural Chartered Engineers have provided infrastructure advice at QCG and are exploring an idea that might potentially lead to some much-needed ongoing revenue funding for the Garden. Clifton Emery Design have kindly offered professional support in the future and discussed the possibility of their workforce undertaking some practical maintenance work on evening – a wonderful community-spirited offer which we shall be keen to enourage!

Kier Construction and Dainton Storage have also come forward to support us with supply and storage of much needed reclaimed bricks.

As the Trust takes on the responsibility, its QCG Project Team will be delighted to hear from further businesses keen to be involved. The goodwill and generosity of businesses, local and further afield, is greatly appreciated. Please contact trust@exeterstjamesforum.org

Mowing the Meadow
Most of the original public-spirited volunteers are still offering their mowing services, five summer seasons on. However, we shouldn't expect the same few to continue to undertake this work for the community for ever, and so we are looking for new volunteers to come forward to join the rota. Is this something you would be willing to consider? Maybe you would like to come along to see what is involved before committing. Please contact info@exeterstjamesforum.org to offer help or find out more.



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