Concerns Escalate Over Future of Exeter Beauty Spot Amid Landmark Sale

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Growing apprehensions surround the potential demise of a beloved Exeter beauty spot as discussions intensify regarding the sale of a historic landmark. Urgent surveys are currently underway to safeguard the grounds of Larkbeare House, a notable feature in the city’s scenery.

In December, Exeter’s renowned registry office and popular wedding venue, Larkbeare House, was listed for sale with a price tag of £4 million by Devon County Council. This decision forms part of the council’s broader strategy to divest itself of select properties, aiming to bolster financial reserves and enhance long-term sustainability.

Market listing responsibilities for Larkbeare House have been entrusted to property consultants Vickery Holman, who have positioned the site as a lucrative commercial development opportunity. Boasting a substantial 16,000 square feet of accommodation and encompassing five acres of surrounding land, the property presents potential buyers with a canvas for redevelopment.

However, amidst the commercial allure, conservation groups such as the Exeter Civic Society and Devon Gardens Trust are sounding alarms regarding the fate of the trees adorning the estate. Expressing apprehension over the possible loss of a vital component of the city’s ‘green canopy’, these organisations are advocating for measures to ensure the preservation of the natural landscape. Of particular concern is the impact of any alterations on the visual appeal of the area, notably its visibility from Exeter Quayside.

A spokesperson for the Exeter Civic Society’s ‘Tree Preservation Taskforce’ articulated their stance, stressing the importance of safeguarding the biodiversity and ecological balance of Larkbeare House’s environs. They highlighted the pressing need to implement protective measures, particularly in light of the site’s proximity to areas notorious for high pollution levels, exacerbated by vehicular emissions.

Currently, the trees within the estate are afforded limited protection by their inclusion in a conservation area. However, the groups are fervently advocating for the imposition of Tree Protection Orders (TPOs) and the local listing of both the grounds and the house itself. Moreover, they are championing the retention of public access to the grounds, envisioning its potential as a focal point for eco-tourism, given its strategic adjacency to Exeter Quay, the city’s second most visited tourist destination.

To fortify their campaign, these conservationists have embarked on urgent surveys aimed at cataloguing and assessing the ecological significance of the trees and grounds. Emphasising the diverse range of flora present, from mature specimens to burgeoning saplings, they underscore the site’s pivotal role in bolstering Exeter’s arboreal diversity.

Their efforts resonate with findings from the ‘Valuing Exeter’s Urban Forest’ report, commissioned by Exeter City Council and conducted by Treeconomics. The report illuminates the scarcity of large ancient trees within the city and underscores the imperative of their preservation. Furthermore, it underscores the multifaceted benefits offered by mature trees, advocating for their integration into urban development frameworks rather than their displacement.

Significantly, the report quantifies the substantial economic and environmental value derived from Exeter’s trees, estimating an annual carbon storage capacity valued at £1.39 million. Additionally, it underscores the considerable cost of replacing these natural assets, estimated at £111 million, alongside the significant amenity valuation, pegged at £1.32 billion.

As deliberations surrounding the future of Larkbeare House unfold, stakeholders are poised at a critical juncture, balancing commercial imperatives with ecological preservation. The outcome of these discussions will reverberate not only within Exeter’s urban landscape but also across broader conversations concerning sustainability and heritage conservation.

Lauren Redford
Lauren Redford
Journalist Lauren Redford is a seasoned business journalist who focuses on regional areas throughout the United Kingdom. With her expertise and dedication, Lauren brings insightful coverage of local communities and their economic landscapes. With a meticulous approach and a passion for storytelling, she uncovers stories that resonate with readers and offers a deeper understanding of the business world. Lauren's commitment to delivering accurate and engaging news makes her a valuable member of the News Write Ups team.

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