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1,250 new Exeter student flats approved

Sunday, May 30th, 2021 7:31am

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

High density to replace existing accommodation (ECC planning application/LDRS) May 2021

They'll replace existing campus accommodation

Plans for an extra 1,250 student flats on the University of Exeter campus have been given the go ahead.

The development of the Clydesdale, Nash and Birks Grange Village halls of residence off Stocker Road, has been overwhelmingly supported by Exeter City Council’s planning committee.

Councillors agreed with planning officers recommendation of approval, saying that purpose-built accommodation on the university campus was the best way to reverse the trend of family homes being occupied by students.

Backing the plans, Cllr Rachel Sutton said that it was for the redevelopment of a part of the campus which already accommodates students. She added: “Yes it is at a greater density, but I am quite certain that there are residents in other parts of the city who will welcome this as it means housing currently occupied by students comes back into occupation by families."

Cllr Ruth Williams added: “The only way to reverse the trend is to build more purpose built student accommodation so we have to recognise if we want to halt the loss of family homes in Exeter, this is what we have to do in providing purpose built student accommodation.”

But Cllr Michael Mitchell said that he was concerned about the building density and the scale of the current proposals and the impact on residents. He added: “This is a massive increase in floorspace and student numbers in the area and up to 1,200 extra bed spaces, on top of what  already exists on site. I don’t have confidence that for local residents this wouldn’t be overpowering and overshadowing and it needs to be scaled back to get my support.”

The outline proposals were approved by 10 votes to one, although councillors called for further discussions around the impact of light pollution.

The planning officers said: “Given the recent number of student accommodation schemes submitted in off-campus locations, the proposal for such a significant number of bed spaces within a sustainable location on campus is to be welcomed. It is accepted that the quantum of development proposed is substantial, however, it is considered that the parameter plans effectively limit the level of development to an acceptable scale.

“The proposed building heights to accommodate this would have a considerable impact on the character and appearance of the area, however, it is an accepted planning practice that where development is considered acceptable in principle, most efficient use of the land should be sought.

“In addition, the Passivhaus approach to the scheme is to be welcomed and is accepted will in some instances dictate the orientation, form and design of the resultant buildings.”

The application will see:

  • The demolition of the existing two and three storey buildings at Clydesdale and Nash Halls and replaced with new student accommodation ranging in height from three to eight storeys. These buildings will include ancillary service such as shops, cafes at the ground floor level and arranged in courtyard settings with associated hard and soft landscaping.
  • The demolition of the existing service centre and replace with student accommodation buildings varying in height from three to four storeys, with a replacement estates service centres to be located to north east part of the University campus
  • The demolition of the existing Birks Grange refectory building and construction of a new six storey student accommodation building, with ancillary social and amenity space on the ground floor.
  • Refurbishment of existing accommodation block A-E of the Birks Grange to achieve equivalent Passivhaus standards to include external alterations to the walls, windows and roof to include solar panels. The demolition of the refectory removes catered halls from this part of the campus, resulting in the need for new kitchens within each flats and which as a consequence reduces the overall number of units.

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