Constructive approach – Plymouth building projects take shape
HUNDREDS of millions of pounds have been invested in key construction projects across the city since the start of the economic downturn.
Despite a double dip recession and a credit crunch, Plymouth has seen approaching £1billion ploughed into building schemes since 2009.
Much of this has been pumped into just three key projects: at Devonport's former South Yard Enclave, at the ex-naval headquarters at Mount Wise, and in Millbay.
And the investment hasn't ended, and if forthcoming projects such as the Millbay-city centre boulevard, new schools and a mooted cruise liner terminal, get the nod it will mean a further huge injection of capital.
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A recent meeting of Plymouth Area Business Council was given a run-down of the huge investment already made in the city.
Paul Barnard, Plymouth City Council's assistant director of development (planning and regeneration), said city planners had approved £1.65billion of projects since 2009, when the downturn was at its steepest.
He told the meeting, at the council chamber, that more than £538million of these projects had been delivered – with others under way.
Richard Keen, of Galion, the project advisor to Mount Wise (Devon) Ltd, said Phase I of the Village by the Sea Mount Wise housing project had seen £20million of private sector cash used.
And with the start of Phase 2 scheduled for later this year, he said more than £100million will have been invested into Plymouth's economy.
Mr Keen said the project, at a site including Grade II listed buildings, aims for development of 468 residential units, retail outlets and a boutique hotel.
"There is a mix of Georgian-style one and two bedroom apartments and houses," he said. "Phase 1 was completed in October 2012 and is 85 per cent sold.
"We developed a new cricket pavilion and function space together with Plymouth Cricket Club.
"We also worked with local businesses in all aspects of the project.
"We have five full-time members of staff there and have employed local architects, local structural and mechanical engineers, a local contractor and local sales agent.
"There has been £20 million of private investment in Phase One."
But he added: "Life does remain exceptionally challenging – it's more important than ever that investors and the city work together.
"I don't think there is much chance of commercial demand and there is next to no tenant demand, the industry is low on funding.
"But we are looking to bring the next phase of 85 dwellings and the restoration and refurbishment of the wings of Admiralty House, which will take a few years.
"In terms of other investment in Plymouth – it's tough doing business in this environment."
Meanwhile, the estimated £300million rejuvenation of Millbay, the biggest regeneration scheme in Plymouth since the Second World War, is still under way.
John Casey, from Deborah Clark Associates – speaking in the absence of Duncan Cumberland, development director for the Millbay project's Muse Developments – told the meeting the first major block, the Cargo building, is fully sold.
He said work on the King Point Marina is due for completion by the end of the summer, and said: "This should act as a catalyst for further development."
The meeting was told work on the proposed boulevard, which will link Millbay to the city centre, may start as early next month.
Members also heard about plans in the pipeline for a Plymouth School of Creative Arts, earmarked for a site neighbouring Cargo and intended for an autumn 2014 opening.
The possibility of building a cruise liner terminal was also discussed, with a report on the subject ordered for the next PABC meeting in June.
Charles Howeson, chairing the meeting, said: "This is a piece of infrastructure we probably should have in the city sooner rather than later."
He added: "£10million is not a great amount of money in the grand scheme of things. Let's all agree we want to see this."
However concerns were raised as to whether Millbay would be the best place for a terminal.