Planning permission to rebuild the Royal Clarence Hotel as residential flats with ground floor commercial units has finally been granted nearly seven years after the hotel burnt down.
Exeter City Council approved the plans in October last year, but an extended 26 May deadline to sign a section 106 legal agreement requiring developer contributions to health, education and affordable housing elsewhere in the city was not met. Nor was another deadline of 14 July.
At a council meeting last night Labour councillor Emma Morse, who is responsible for development in Exeter, confirmed that the agreement the council signed with developer James Brent earlier this month did not include all the contributions stipulated by its planning committee last year.
While £13,500 for local GP surgeries and £22,500 for the Royal Devon NHS Trust has been included in the agreement as intended, a contribution of £85,152 towards school provision has not.
As the hotel redevelopment plans do not include any affordable housing, a much larger sum of £2.175 million towards the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in Exeter was also included in the agreement.
However none of these sums will be finalised until three months after construction is complete, and will not become payable until all 23 planned residential units have been occupied.
They will then vary depending on final build costs and profit margins submitted to the council by the developer.
At the meeting Emma Morse said the resulting amounts “will depend on how much money is available for healthcare contributions, and if there’s still money left over, affordable housing”.
When asked by Green Party councillor Diana Moore when redevelopment work was expected to start, Emma Morse replied that James Brent “had not made it clear”.
When asked whether the council would consider using its local planning authority powers to expedite the rebuilding of the hotel, given the uncertainty surrounding it, Emma Morse said she could not commit to anything without talking to council officers, but that her reply was “not a no”.
The council allowed three years for development to begin once planning permission was granted, during which time the site may be sold to a new developer with the existing permission attached.