An application to renew planning permission for a eight storey 108-bed purpose built student accommodation block on Longbrook Street was submitted to Exeter City Council just before Christmas.
Permission to develop the site, which includes the the King Billy public house, was previously granted in April 2018. It included the condition that work was required to begin on site within three years.
As the three-year window closes in April this year a “renewal of unimplemented planning permission” is necessary to prevent the permission lapsing. A letter accompanying the renewal application says “contractual reasons” are the cause of the delay.
The construction of the block, which will be 26 metres tall at its highest point, will require demolition of the King Billy pub, which closed in July 2018. The King Billy was built in 1967 on the site of the Horse and Groom, which had occupied the site since 1740.
The replacement building would span this site and the adjacent plot, which has been empty since 2007. It was previously occupied by Shepherd’s garage, the site of Exeter’s first petrol pump. Planning permission for a six storey student block was separately granted for the garage site in March 2016.
The application to develop both sites, which was submitted in May 2017, was for 124 student beds across up to nine storeys. It claimed that the development would “relieve pressure on family housing” in the area.
There were a number of objections. Robyn Connett of Exeter St James Forum said: “The evidence confirms increasing numbers of student HMOs in St James despite the Article 4 Direction aimed at preventing this. Many in the community feel a serious tipping point has already have been exceeded.”
The plans were subsequently revised, resulting in a reduction in height and sixteen fewer bedrooms.
The site falls outside the Longbrook Conservation Area but within the scope of the St James Neighbourhood Plan, which was adopted as part of the Exeter Local Plan by Exeter City Council in March 2013. It includes a policy that large scale purpose built student accommodation should only be permitted where it’s possible to “integrate the design into the urban area”.
The developer says the King Billy “appears at odds” with neighbouring buildings, and that the student block would “assimilate well within the street scene”. The new building would adjoin John Lewis, which the planning statement says is the tallest building in Exeter, and stand opposite Portland House, a seven storey student accommodation block.
The development plans include a retail unit and a pub or restaurant space on the ground floor and a roof terrace with communal lounge and “plant room”. An historic 15th century wall at the rear of the site would be partly demolished to allow pedestrian access with the removed material used to “repair and improve the wall”. No car parking space is provided but storage for twenty bicycles is planned.
The applicant is Bristol-based Rengen Developments Ltd. Its parent company Iesis Limited also owns a lettings company which manages student accommodation in Bath, Bristol and Worcester.
Exeter City Council will consider the application at a later date. The plans are near-identical to those previously approved so it appears permission is likely to be granted. More details are available on the city council planning portal.
There are currently 34 privately-owned off-campus student accommodation blocks in the city, according to the University of Exeter, of which twenty are within a ten minute walk of the Longbrook Street site.