THE REBRANDING OF EXETER
1. Haven Banks
The day began with a visit to Haven Banks, a waterfront location along the River Exe that has been redeveloped into small independent retail outlets and a complex of flats/apartments. A 3-bed flat in this area is currently for sale for nearly £300,000. There is also a water activities centre operating from this location. There was still evidence of many redundant warehouses from the 1800s and early 1900s which were used in the trade of wool, cement, oil, timber and other goods. Ironically, we stood discussing some of these issues in front of a building site marketing new-build 1 and 2 bedroom flat, next to an empty and derelict warehouse which was ripe for redevelopment. We carried out Environmental Quality and Housing Quality bi-polar surveys, as well as an assessment of the success of this areas regeneration.
2. Exeter Quay
We crossed the foot bridge to the other side of the River Exe, to have a look around Exeter Quay. This is an example of an area that has been rebranded for tourism. We were noting any features of the 'old' quayside and how it's 'new' rebranding targeted the tourist visiting Exeter. This ranged from the visitors centre, to cafes, retaurants, the small ferry that links the Quay to Haven Banks and the cobbled streets and pedestrianised areas. It was also worth noting the approach of the rebranding, mixing the history of the quay with the new image - the history of the area is still strongly felt. The slow deterioration of the Quay began in the mid 1800s when the railway started to replace the use of the canal for transporting goods. Here, students repeated their exercise, looking at the housing and the quality of the environment. We established that the housing around this area, known as Shilhay, was a contrast to the relatively more expensive Haven Banks area. There's an array of council owned accommodation and sheltered housing. It was a surprise to see that so many of the clubs on the quay had closed down - this area is well known as the hub of Exeter's nightlife. Some students were looking at the average age of the cars, to make comparisons with other areas later in the day.
On 13th February 2009, The Herald reported that 'LAND Securities "in partnership with Exeter City Council" spent £225m to develop the new Princesshay, bringing over 500,000 square feet of retail space, 60 shops, seven restaurants, 123 apartments and 500 parking spaces to our city.' (see the whole report here).
Students continued to collect their data regarding the environment and the housing (part of the redevelopment has included new apartments above the stores). They also carried out perception surveys, asking people using Princesshay what they thought of the redevelopment. Students had also preprepared their own means of assessing the sustainability of the city centre. There's already a notable exodus of shops from the Princesshay centre, including Zavvi, Barratts and USC.
4. High Street
After visiting the new Princesshay, we made a direct comparison with the High Street, which runs parallel to the new development. Many buildings are now empty as a result of both the current economic situation and the fact that the larger chains moved into the new development. Next and Debenhams were the two stores that acted as the anchor to the new Princesshay - with Next having the prime location and iconic design at the entrance to the High Street. However, opposite the Next store is the empty shell of the old high rise Debenhams store, as well as many other empty stores. In 2005, Exeter topped the list of clone towns in the UK, with only one out of 50 stores in the High Street being independent, the rest chain stores. (See the BBC report here.)
5. Sidwell Street
To finish, we went to a street that is in need of some regeneration - Sidwell Street. It does contain many more independent stores and a steet market, but has many visible signs of decline, including buildings in a poor state of repair, damaged pavements and graffiti. This street is only yards away from the iconic Next store, yet is a stark contrast.
When we were returning to the minibus, we went past the new Vue cinema complex and the construction of a new hotel in the same area, both examples of the reimaging of Exeter.
Here is a copy of the fieldwork booklet that we used on the day. I adapted it from various resources shared on the Edexcel Geography Ning (with thanks to those people who shared their primary data techniques).