QCG - News of Great Significance

Last updated: 14th May 2018

Queen's Crescent Garden (QCG) – News of Great Significance!

It may have taken 7 long years, but in 2018 the community's desire to claim QCG as its own Green Space, part of the identified Community Hub providing a much-needed heart for St James, is now all set to become reality!

The Forum set up Exeter St James Community Trust in 2014 as an approved not-for-profit community enterprise to assume legal responsibility for QCG, its top priority project, as well as all other Forum projects which may require such a corporate body.

Last week, on 6 February, a legally binding Agreement For Lease (AFL) of QCG was exchanged between Exeter City Council (ECC) and Exeter St James Community Trust (ESJCT)!

What exactly does this mean?

The 125 year Lease, based on Heads of Terms agreed in 2014 and which has been the subject of detailed negotiation and careful drafting and redrafting over the last year, is finally in a form approved by the Trust's solicitor, that both ECC and ESJCT are able to sign. The AFL legally commits both parties to this signing by 30 June 2018 at the latest.

It also means that ECC has now committed legally to make available to the Trust on signing the Lease, £50,000 New Homes Bonus monies, most of which the Trust is to invest to provide financial security against potential costs related to specific responsibilities over the 125 year period.

It's taken so long, can we really be sure there isn't anything that could stop this happening?

WELL! 'RULES IS RULES' and when it comes to CPO legislation there are plenty of them! ECC still has to advertise a General Vesting Declaration and allow this process to run its course between now and June. There is a theoretical chance that an objection even at this very late stage could derail the timetable, and so the AFL is conditional upon there being no such obstacle. But the chance is so remote that we've been advised we shouldn't delay making plans to CELEBRATE!

What difference will it make?

First and foremost the regeneration will continue in earnest!

When the government's Pocket Park Programme granted the Trust funding, through partnership with ECC, unusually prior to the Lease being in place, we witnessed a taste of what was to come as the York Road walls were restored and a new entrance created. But when that money ran out all went quiet.

As soon as the Garden legally becomes the Community's, the Forum will hand over responsibility for the project to the Trust, which will be ready and able to commence the next phase of regeneration work for which funding has already been secured! Plans are afoot to place further bids soon in hope that the momentum gathered during the coming phase can continue with a seamless continuation into later phases.

It will be time to celebrate as a community!

The Forum and Trust would love to hear your ideas as together we plan together to celebrate this most significant milestone and the handover from Forum to Trust.

It will be time to time for more community volunteers to come forward!

Since 2014 there has been a faithful band of volunteers who have kept the grass mown and others who have, as part of working parties or quietly on their own, collected litter, and once the Trust becomes legally responsible for keeping the Garden, we look forward to tapping into the goodwill of additional members of the community as volunteers to keep the Garden clean and tidy with grass mown, so do please consider how you might help and get in touch.

It will be time for the community to use its Green Space, informally and for organised events

The Garden will be crying out to be used for Community events, so get thinking about how you would like to use it, and events that might be organised there to bring the community together. The Trust will be pleased to consider all ideas.

Hugh McCann has been making good progress preparing for his Art Week Exeter 'Advice Bank' project which will culminate in a temporary Public Art installation in QCG during AWE, 22 – 28 May. This will be an opportunity for the community to come together as an early kick off to the celebrations the following month.

It will be time for the community to devise imaginative fundraising opportunities for the project

Talking of fundraising events, it's time already to remember our popular Plant Sales. Please start sowing and growing, dividing and potting contributions for a plant stall in the summer!

And finally, it's time to thank all who have supported the project thus far

The goodwill of individuals, our councillors, residents' associations, businesses local and further afield and most recently, Exeter City Council, has been outstanding. The latest in a long line is Kier Construction which has provided a very large quantity of salvaged local bricks and to Dainton Storage which has agreed to store these safely until needed for the continuing wall restoration. Regarding the Lease negotiations, over recent months particular thanks are owed to Keith Biggs of OTB Eveling, Solicitors, for his advice and expertise and to Peter Hearn, ECC's Principal Project Officer (Strategic Infrastructure City Development) whose genuine belief in the value of what the community is undertaking through this project, and his ingenuity, tenacity and determination to identify solutions and steer these through to their satisfactory conclusions, have played a vital part in the reaching of agreement.


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