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News update 20 July 2020

It’s ‘No’ again for Maclaines


Dear <<First Name>>

Maclaines Warehouses – the iconic canalside warehouses at Exeter Canal Basin – have been confirmed for a joint venture between a brewery and an office developer.
The Friends have been told again there will be no breathing space in the process to give our alternative plan for a maritime and boatyard hub for the canal and a centre for community activity a chance.
We have been told the development deal is too far advanced. The planning application has been approved under the council's delegated powers and the decision will be made public shortly.
A 16-year-old ‘Canal Basin Masterplan’ was cited as justifying the development. The Friends have more than once called for this document to be revised because it was drawn up in the days when the future of the canal was seen as a liability. It ignores the importance of the basin to the canal as a whole.
In a joint letter to the City Council and Exeter Canal and Quay Trust, we repeated our request for a pause so that we could develop our proposals for a maritime and boatyard hub and a centre for community activity in Units 3 & 4 of Maclaines – see the story on our website, ‘In the interests of Exeter think again’.
The main points in their reply to us are:
• Previous attempts to find a sustainable and viable use for Maclaines Warehouses since the closure of the Boat Museum have failed 'on grounds of viability, funding, and/or the difficulties of finding a use for the historic listed building without an unacceptable impact on its fabric.'
• After the warehouses were ‘marketed openly’ in 2018, Forward Space, a serviced office provider and developer willing to invest in the building, together with Topsham Brewery were invited to work together to present a ‘comprehensive approach’ to the building that was ‘Masterplan compliant’.     
• The reply goes on: ‘Both parties have now gone to some expense at their own risk to submit planning and listed building applications for their respective parts of the building. These applications were broadly compliant with the Canal Basin Masterplan and therefore could deliver a refurbishment and range of uses that both the Trust and the City Council are comfortable with.  It is felt that the brewery and work space uses will add to the developing balance of work space, food and drink and leisure activities in and around the Canal Basin which can only contribute to the increased vibrancy and ongoing transformation of the area.’
• The letter also rejected the Friends’ argument that decline in demand for office space as a result to the Covid pandemic was a factor to justify a pause. ‘It is envisaged that the type of flexible work space being provided at the Maclaines Warehouse could actually see an increased demand in future years as an alternative to the more rigid structures of the conventional office and the limitations of home work,’ the reply says. There were ‘long-stop dates’ that will kick in if the project is not proceeding.
• Councillors approving the planning application were not members of the Exeter Canal & Quay Trust. 
In a final note, the reply from ECC and ECQT adds: ‘Whilst there may well be merit in a maritime proposition for the building it is far from developed to a place where we could justifiably withdraw from transactions that have been pursued by others in good faith and at no little expense. Having said that, should either proposal not proceed both the Trust and the City Council would be pleased to explore the concept further with the Friends.’
This briefing is to keep you up all to date. We are now considering a range of ways to go forward with ideas to revive maritime and boatyard life on the canal and basin. We believe that activity that will bring maritime uses to the waterway and showcases heritage and the community and not ‘workspace, food and drink’ is the real way to contribute to the increased vibrancy and ongoing transformation of the area which the Friends, as well as the council and ECQT, want to see. We think this will attract more public support, more interest in growth, and more visitors from within and outside the city.
Watch for more news. We are going on. If you want to help us now, please tell people about what we are doing and encourage them to join the Friends of Exeter Ship Canal.

With all best wishes

John Monks
Friends of Exeter Ship Canal
01392 493559


We are always keen to welcome new members who are supporters of the canal. If you know anyone who may be interested please feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

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For all membership enquiries please contact:
Mick Green, secretary
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