Why does the Pyramids need to be replaced?
The Pyramids opened in 1941 and is now in poor condition. The facilities are ageing and tired, requiring substantial investment. The pool is also operating above capacity. The design of the existing facility leaves little scope to make significant internal changes/improvements.
The cost of improvement works to the Pyramids has been estimated at around £3million for building, plant, mechanical and electrical equipment over the next 3 years as a minimum. However, the majority of this investment would be in plant i.e. 'behind the scenes', and would not be seen by, nor would impact on, the public; so it would not necessarily enhance their experience of using the facilities.
In addition to the need for capital investment the ongoing revenue costs of operating the building are increasing because of the age and condition of the facility.
What is the current status of the site?
The site comprises part of Exeter Bus & Coach Station. The Bus & Coach Station is scheduled to be relocated and redeveloped as part of the wider regeneration proposals.
What will happen to the bus station?
As part of the wider regeneration of this part of the city centre, a new, attractive bus station will be provided.
What consideration has been given to the seating capacity for swimming events?
We have been in consultation with all key groups who currently use the facilities. We have been meeting with the Exeter Swimming Club, who wished for a 50m competitive pool, to discuss the seating capacity and work is ongoing to resolve this issue.
Can we have a theatre or conference centre at the Bus & Coach Station site?
The need to replace the Pyramids is urgent as the existing facility is over capacity and in need of significant investment to keep it operating, with little scope to extend and improve the facilities. Exeter City Council has identified this site as the most suitable to deliver a modern, fit-for-purpose leisure centre in a location that is accessible to all in the community. The Council has secured funding for this investment.
This is not to say that Exeter City Council would not explore viable options for a new theatre/arena in Exeter city centre in the future. Exeter's Bike Shed Theatre Company is working up plans to turn derelict warehouses at Exeter Quay into a £4m creative space, which will include a new theatre and live music venue.
Exeter Council has also commissioned a £75,000 survey into the viability of improvements for South Street and the Corn Exchange, which could feature a theatre. The results of that report have yet to be presented to the council.
What facilities will the leisure centre have?
The leisure centre will house three pools; a 25 metre 8-lane competition pool as well as a 20 metre 4-lane community and training pool. It will also offer a children's water play area, a 150 station fitness suite, flexible studio spaces, high quality health spa including saunas and stream rooms, a cafe, children's soft play, crèche facilities, and comfortable changing rooms. All of the leisure elements will be designed to meet Sport England guidance in terms of size, capacity and technical requirements.
Why won't there be a 50m pool?
The new leisure centre is intended as an asset for the entire community. A 50m pool, while a desirable facility for competitive swimmers, is less appealing to learners and casual swimmers. We want to deliver a leisure facility that strikes a balance between meeting the needs of competitive swimmers, while remaining accessible to all. Elite competitive swimming facilities already exist in Devon, and our aspiration with Exeter Active is to provide a community facility to replace Pyramids, which is accessible to all – from complete beginners to clubs, schools and disability groups. The logistics of accommodating a 50m pool at this site would also involve a very significant cost which would impact on other facilities we aim to offer at the leisure centre.
What is Passivhaus?
Passivhaus buildings provide a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling. They are built with meticulous attention to detail and rigorous design and construction according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany, and can be certified through an exacting quality assurance process. Passivhaus buildings achieve a 70% reduction in space heating requirements, compared to standard practice for UK new build. The Passivhaus standard therefore gives a robust method to help the industry achieve the 80% carbon reductions that are set as a legislative target for the UK Government.
Is there demand for such a facility?
Population growth forecasts for Exeter indicate that there will be increased demand for all community services, including leisure facilities. 70% is considered the maximum comfortable capacity for a swimming pool. ECC currently operates 3 year round pools in the city and all of them are currently operating above this comfortable capacity level: Pyramids (77%), Riverside (72%) and Northbrook (89%). Market segmentation shows that swimming is one of the most popular activities for city residents and there is therefore latent demand in the community.
What consideration has been given to traffic issues?
Traffic and transportation impact have been looked at as part of the Princesshay Leisure proposals and it has been concluded that the wider development is highly accessible from all modes of transport and will provide an improved bus station. The re-routed traffic resulting from the closure of Paris Street and the development traffic can be accommodated in the proposed highway network.
Can the Exeter Farmers' Market be relocated to the new development?
It is envisaged that the development of the area when complete will create improved public spaces which will be suitable for staging a whole range of events. How these spaces are used will depend on a number of other factors which will be examined at the appropriate time.
Why not locate the leisure centre on the edge of the city, near the motorway?
We want to provide a leisure centre that is accessible to all, regardless of their access to private transport. This city centre location is close to public transport hubs from all parts of the city and surrounding towns and villages. As well as promoting health and wellbeing, we want this leisure centre to complement other facilities in the city centre and to provide a boost to businesses. 26% of Exeter’s population does not have access to a car, which indicates that the nature of demand is less mobile than average, i.e. being able to access pools by public transport and/or foot or bike is very important.
Why are you closing Paris Street?
The closure of Paris Street is being driven by Crown Estate’s Princesshay development, and is not a requirement driven by our Leisure Centre scheme. However, evidence shows that pedestrianising areas of city centres leads to greater levels of safety and accessibility for pedestrians.