COMMENT  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Exeter St James regeneration

How can the supply of low-cost, incrementally investable city centre accommodation be stimulated to attract and retain creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent?

University of exeter  Housing crisis  Congestion  Public realm 

City knowledge economy development critically depends on the presence of creative, technically-skilled young entrepreneurial talent which, whether locally-grown or graduating, is currently more likely to leave Exeter than stay.

Increasing the supply of low-cost, centrally-located accommodation would help improve retention rates while also attracting dynamic incomers who currently head elsewhere to start companies, join growth enterprises and stimulate cultural and night-time economies.

Exeter St James contains plenty of the kind of incrementally investable human-scale period housing stock with family home potential which appeals to these aspirational groups, and is often readily available in competing knowledge economy growth areas.

However, much of it is occupied on a part-time basis by university undergraduates, who have little incentive to get involved with the city’s economic development.

Exeter St James period housing stock Exeter St James period housing stock. Photo: Derek Harper.

New student accommodation is being built in the area despite a special planning policy intended to prevent the proportion of full-time residents falling any further. At the same time, the adjacent university campus offers plentiful staff car parking at negligible cost but significant city congestion impact.

Building student flats on campus land currently used for car parking and accordingly revising its staff travel strategy would strengthen the university’s credibility as a centre for environmental futures, provide needed additional income and help house the increasing numbers of overseas students it plans to attract in suitably study-integrated accommodation.

Meanwhile, many students living in St James possess street parking permits for vehicles whose presence prevents the essential connection of nearby arterial cycle routes with the city centre. Removal of street car parking permit eligibility at properties claiming full council tax exemption would free needed carriageway space for walking and cycling.

Constructive collaboration around these matters between university, city and county would create positive outcomes that would benefit all concerned. Gradually rescinding existing Article 4 area HMO licenses on expiration would create new housing supply of the right kind in the right place to support city centre knowledge economy development.

Important mobility changes would be enabled by enhancing Exeter’s cycling infrastructure, economic benefits would accrue to city centre businesses and council tax receipts would increase.

At the same time quality of life for the area’s year-round residents would improve as property occupation moved from transient to permanent and familiar problems with noise and waste management were reduced.

Exeter St James in spatial context Exeter St James in spatial context. Image: Exeter St James Forum.

Exeter St James is a short walk or bike ride away from the city’s emerging digital economy work hubs, as well as the many retail, leisure and culture providers who would benefit from increased numbers of full-time residents nearby.

The neighbourhood should be seen as a strategically important asset which can be leveraged for universal benefit without creating negative impact.

This progressive form of regeneration would be driven not by professional property developers but by newly settling residents, permanently embedding their investment in the city.

Change would take place incrementally, allowing the word to spread via peer networks and, crucially, would require no public investment.

The vision and courage it would instead require from local policy-makers should present a minor challenge compared with the major benefits this form of regeneration would bring.


 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

Exeter in brief
Exeter in brief

Royal College of Nursing staff at the ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST have resumed strike action alongside South Western Ambulance Service workers as healthcare professionals across the country stage the biggest strike in NHS history.

Detailed plans for the Honiton Road MOOR EXCHANGE RETAIL PARK have been submitted for approval. Outline planning permission for the development was granted two years ago.

The police inspectorate says DEVON AND CORNWALL POLICE must make urgent improvements after it was found to be inadequate in three of nine areas including responding to emergency and non-emergency calls and managing registered sexual and violent offenders.
Its assessment found two other areas required improvement while two more were graded “good”. A new chief constable was appointed in December after the force was placed under enhanced inspectorate monitoring last year.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on its draft Exeter Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which is already nearly six years late, until the end of March.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER staff have resumed strike action over pay, pensions and working conditions alongside Exeter school teaching staff with dozens more strike days planned during February and March.

EXETER CITY FUTURES published the agenda for its last board meeting on 30 January, two months after the meeting was held. It says it is “committed to being completely transparent and open about the things that are discussed at board meetings”. No minutes were included.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is not making sufficient progress with its children’s services since they were judged inadequate in January 2020 according to the latest Ofsted monitoring report which found that key areas still require significant change and serious issues remain.

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has submitted detailed plans for its 1,700 bed West Park redevelopment of 50,000m2 of student accommodation.

Royal College of Nursing staff at the ROYAL DEVON NHS TRUST have resumed strike action alongside South Western Ambulance Service workers as healthcare professionals across the country stage the biggest strike in NHS history.

Detailed plans for the Honiton Road MOOR EXCHANGE RETAIL PARK have been submitted for approval. Outline planning permission for the development was granted two years ago.

The police inspectorate says DEVON AND CORNWALL POLICE must make urgent improvements after it was found to be inadequate in three of nine areas including responding to emergency and non-emergency calls and managing registered sexual and violent offenders.
Its assessment found two other areas required improvement while two more were graded “good”. A new chief constable was appointed in December after the force was placed under enhanced inspectorate monitoring last year.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is consulting on its draft Exeter Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, which is already nearly six years late, until the end of March.

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER staff have resumed strike action over pay, pensions and working conditions alongside Exeter school teaching staff with dozens more strike days planned during February and March.

EXETER CITY FUTURES published the agenda for its last board meeting on 30 January, two months after the meeting was held. It says it is “committed to being completely transparent and open about the things that are discussed at board meetings”. No minutes were included.

DEVON COUNTY COUNCIL is not making sufficient progress with its children’s services since they were judged inadequate in January 2020 according to the latest Ofsted monitoring report which found that key areas still require significant change and serious issues remain.

The UNIVERSITY OF EXETER has submitted detailed plans for its 1,700 bed West Park redevelopment of 50,000m2 of student accommodation.

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