Exeter City Council has granted full planning consent for four purpose built student accommodation blocks on the 1.85 acre site of the Johnsons laundry and workwear factory in Cowley Bridge Road, which became vacant following a fire in 2020.
The blocks will be up to six storeys tall and provide 350 bedspaces in a combination of 154 studios and 35 cluster flats.
They will follow the form established by four existing neighbouring purpose built student accommodation blocks by providing sight of green space on the other side of the adjacent railway and river through gaps between buildings.
Risks resulting from the development’s location in the River Exe valley flood plain will be addressed by its design and the provision of emergency escape routes.
A communal space on the ground floor of one of the new blocks will be made available for community use and the development will include the provision of a pedestrian and cycle route along its frontage, where there is currently no pavement.
Local ward councillor Michael Mitchell, quoting county council figures that show around 10,000 students bring cars to Exeter each year at Monday’s planning committee meeting, sought a planning consent condition requiring that the development would be truly “car free”, as described.
The response was that only two residents would be granted permits for the disabled parking bays on the site, and the provision of cycling storage and space for an electric bike hire scheme would “encourage” others not to drive.
When pressed to include a clause in the building management plan to prohibit residents from bringing cars to the city, the response was that the third-party site operator would “discourage” their use.
Purpose built student accommodation has been anticipated on the site since it became vacant, because of its proximity to the university’s Streatham campus in an area of the city that is now almost entirely dedicated to providing student accommodation.
Community balance was not mentioned in the council planning case officer’s report on the development proposals.
Although the site was previously in employment use, the council did not consider protecting this use because of its context.
Full details of the application can be viewed on the city council website.