Pictures: New plans for ‘Exeter Gateway’ student flats may exceed limit

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PLANS to build 10 new town houses for 139 students in Exeter could break the ceiling set on such developments.

The proposed new flats, on the “Exeter Gateway” junction of St Davids Hill and Bonhay Road, near St David’s Station, are the latest in a long line of city developments specifically for students.

And they come as the city council – which has 4,869 households registered on its waiting list – revealed that in the last 12 months, 99 new affordable homes were completed in Exeter, 14 of them council homes built by Exeter City Council.

Christine Fraser, chairman of the St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership, said they would be talking to city planning chief Richard Short about the latest plan.

She said: “We will be talking about the percentage cap on such developments which is 20 per cent to residential – there are different interpretations on this but that cap may already have been exceeded.

“The committee will be meeting to discuss the proposal and we would like to invite the developer to come and talk about it.

“If it is well thought out and carefully designed, and appropriate to the space and enhancing it, then it would be welcomed.

“It is very much a question of scale.”

Student accommodation developments do not provide Section 106 payments – money paid by the developer to enhance the community – but a new Community Infrastructure Levy, which is a near equivalent, could apply.

The latest plan is for the demolition of Clifton Garage on Bonhay Road along with three-story 101 St Davids Hill, to build 10 student townhouses, each four storeys and providing 139 bedrooms.

The site is in a prominent gateway position opposite St David’s Station and just half a mile from the university’s Streatham campus..

The developers suggest the go-ahead would be a “potential catalyst for regeneration in this historically important area of the city, an area that could form a new gateway to Exeter”.

The proposed site is made up of two plots. The first, a light industrial unit facing Bonhay Road. The second is a two/three storey house in a large plot facing onto St Davids Hill.

The site is bounded by The Red House to the north – which has already been converted to student flats.

The central courtyard area will consist of outdoor terraces to each of the student townhouses, with space for cycle storage and bin storage, a small, single storey gym building and car parking for 10 cars accessed from Bonhay Road.

The new plan is the latest in a line of proposed and actual developments to provide hundreds of new student flats in Exeter.

The Radmore Tucker building in Western Way has been earmarked to be turned into student flats and follows the conversion of Stoneman Bowker on Sidwell Street and James Townsend the printers on Western Way – 492 flats – along with office block Portland House on Longbrook Street/New North Road, for 161 flats.

The Old City Library in Castle Street is also going to student flats.

Eagle Yard in Tudor Street, an area of land in the heart of the city centre between well-known Tudor House, and Eagle House, both listed buildings, is awaiting approval to be turned into 21 studio flats.

Work has already started on new student flats at the Exeter Cricket Club ground.

Despite more than 50 objections, plans fore 130 student rooms built on the former car park of the Rougemont Telephone Exchange have been approved.

Luxury student flats have also been developed at the old city hospital site off Southernhay.

A 185-student flat has been provided at Kingfisher House, also on Western Way.

The number of student dwellings in the city rose from 1,495 in October 2009 to 2,975 in October 2014 – an increase of 98.99 per cent.

Around three quarters of the increase was purpose-built accommodation.

The number of shared houses for students has stabilised and in some areas declined, according to the city council.

Echo Opinion:

“FEW would argue that Exeter University has been and continues to be a driving force for good in the city.

Not only does it bring millions of pounds of investment and provide hundreds of skilled jobs, it also greatly enlivens city life with a welcome influx of young, bright people from across the country and across the world.

And yet….

The continued expansion of student accommodation, whether purpose-built or through conversions has reached the point where it seems to be the only city centre home-building going on.

This rankles with many Exonians, particularly those who may have grown-up children who desperately need a rented home of their own and cannot afford the crippling costs of the first rung on the home ownership ladder.

Few private flats are being built, certainly few with laundry, gyms and other very mod cons included.

Further out, on the fringes, new family homes are shooting up but the city centre and its prime “brown field” sites are being snapped up by developers who obviously see student accommodation as the current “big thing” for Exeter.

The old Stoneman Bowker shop, the Western Way print works, Portland House, Eagle Yard – all have been taken over – and more are on the way. It is certainly not the university’s fault that they are so successful in attracting students who should be accommodated to a decent standard. But while a thriving university – which Exeter most certainly is – buffs up the whole city’s reputation, the shine will be taken off if it appears the Gown is overwhelming the Town.”