Plymouth should learn to attract American tourists
PLYMOUTH should learn to attract tourists from across the Atlantic as it hatches ambitious plans for the future, says a top architect.
Anthony Clerici said the city should tap into the American tourist market – and become a true "destination".
The Worcester-based architect, a vice president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), was speaking at the Plymouth Plan forum in the Council House last night.
More than 130 architects, business people, developers and academics met to debate the Plymouth Plan – the city's wide-ranging blueprint for development up to 2031.
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Mr Clerici said Plymouth had a great coastline and was close to Dartmoor.
But he said it had suffered from an image problem, and that the view from outside was that it was not a "destination".
"I don't understand why the place isn't crawling with Americans," Mr Clerici said.
"Maybe they have a problem getting here.
On the Mackay Vision of 2003, he said: "2003 is a long time ago.
"There is a vicious circle, and maybe it has stalled.
"Maybe we are here today to break that circle."
He said there was "an incredible scale" to Plymouth, but it was "very open and sometimes windswept".
Paul Barnard, the council's chief planner, said the Mackay Vision had been embedded into the city's strategies.
David Mackay had called for a step change in the pace and intensity of development, Mr Barnard said.
Mr Barnard said the recession of 2008 had wiped out jobs created before 2006.
"Incredibly for a First World city we have neighbourhoods where you die 15 years sooner than if you live in another neighbourhood."
He said the challenge was to make plans that are inspirational.
Isabel Allen, director of design at Kevin McCloud's HAB Oakus company, said: "Vision is wonderful but you must not forget the boring stuff."
She explained how a major project in Swindon went wrong "because we didn't dot our Is and cross our Ts".
Peter Towey of Plymouth Civic Society said the city centre was dead at night. There could be more in the Plymouth Plan to encourage people to "live above the shop", he said.
Professor Julian Beer, pro vice chancellor of Plymouth University, said the university had an aspiration to get more people living in the centre to create more vibrancy.
Mr Barnard said it needed to be private sector-led.
Tim Jones, chair of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said that if you were going to develop a niche market like Exeter's Southernhay more flexibility was needed by planners.
He quoted Mr Mackay saying the city centre needed to be "a place of chaos".
Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said: "What we are trying to do with the Plymouth Plan is to remove the barriers to development.
"It's the same plan that saw the development of Drake Circus and the Roland Levinsky Building.
"I am really interested in getting ideas from people who are not in the planning department."
Mr Jones said about 30 per cent of non-food shopping was now online, and that was challenging city centres.
"The market is moving so quickly and it's catching out an awful lot of people."
But in answer to the idea of car-free developments, he said: "If you removed the car from the equation you would not be able to fund that development."
Ms Allen agreed, saying: "The thing we've had to backpedal on most is the car. I'm very disappointed."
But Mr Clerici said successful cities had taken the brave step of removing the car.
Cllr Evans said: "The city centre is much bigger than it needs to be for a population of our size."
But he said the council was going to "defend" the city centre to keep it as a shopping centre.
Artist Sally Hall said there was "a depressing uniformity" about the city centre. Space should not just be for big retailers, she said.
Prof Beer said the university was working with the council to develop diversity and encourage graduates to stay in the city.
Cllr Evans reminded the audience that there were other parts of the city, like Royal William Yard, the Barbican and Sutton Harbour.
Simon Bradbury, an architecture lecturer, said: "If you want quality, don't rely on the private sector."
And he said the council should think about the six-month plan and the one-year plan as well as the 20-year plan.
Estate agent Roger Punch said the Waterfront was the city's unique selling point.
"I see a sea change with people coming in from outside and buying high-quality property, attracted by the Waterfront," he said.
The forum was organised by Jonathan Braddick, chairman of the Plymouth branch of RIBA.