A MAJOR redevelopment of Exeter’s Water Lane is a step closer after Exeter City Council decided it could force a small number of people out of their homes to make it happen.

The council’s ruling executive has agreed to use its compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers to secure land on a largely brownfield site, if necessary, to make way for up to 1,500 new homes.

It has also decided to hand over a section of council land at its Exton Road recycling depot to create an extra underpass under the railway line on Tan Lane for electric buses, pedestrians and cyclists.

It forms part of the council’s collaboration with a land promoter – the Water Lane Development Management Company – to redevelop the area on the west bank of the Exeter Ship Canal.

The site is one of the city council’s “Liveable Exeter” areas, which it says is “arguably the most exciting large scale brownfield regeneration opportunity in the city”, adding it has been part of development plans for more than a quarter of a century.

Explaining the measures, director of city development Ian Collinson told an executive meeting that legal protections included in the agreements means there is “limited, if any risk to the council, both financially or legally”.

He said it is part of a “strategic approach” to use some of their powers to help move the redevelopment project forward.

Councillors were told the proposed new underpass would be a “really key piece of infrastructure”, with a report adding: “The existing [one] isn’t really fit for purpose and if this route can be made safe for pedestrian and cyclist use, whilst also opening up the potential for electric buses, the opportunity should improve the accessibility and permeability of the area.”

However, council leader Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) asked for assurances that help would be offered, if needed, to tenants at Casting House, one of the buildings in the redevelopment site which could be bought under the CPO.

He said there are four privately-rented apartments in the building, adding: “We don’t want to see any section 21 [notices] going on, whereby people are ousted with no alternatives.”

Mr Collinson replied by saying CPOs are a “last resort” and that the developer will negotiate to ensure residents are given “proper notice and proper consideration”.

He added: “We will be looking over the shoulder, if you like, of Water Lane DMC to make sure that everything possible is being done to protect those people and ensuring that they are dealt with in a considered way.”

Cllr Martin Pearce (Labour, Duryard and St James), portfolio holder for homelessness prevention, says help will be made available to the affected residents quickly, “because this is a public document now. 

“They know there’s a potential that their property’s going to be up for sale.”