More Student Accommodation
MORE STUDENT ACCOMMODATION IN ST JAMES?
The steady flow of planning applications for further student accommodation has continued over recent weeks, keeping Steering Group and its expert planning advisers busy as the merits or otherwise of each is considered against the policies of St James Neighbourhood Plan.
Change of use of Clock Tower Hotel, 16 New North Road into a 18 bed HMO 16/1661/03
The City Council's case officer for this application has intimated to us that in her view it is 'a finely balanced scheme with good arguments for and against' and so she is waiting to see what comes out of the consultation.
It is disappointing that the planners thus appear to need persuasion to recommend refusal on grounds of community balance. The proposed change of use would further increase existing community imbalance in St James, and approval would make a mockery of the Council's own policy and its rationale behind the application of Article 4 Direction across St James. It would also be counter to the wishes of the community as set out in St James Neighbourhood Plan, specifically the key aim of achieving a balanced and vibrant community.
In addition to the objection that will be submitted by the Forum, we would encourage all members who are concerned that this change of use is not in accordance with the underlying aim of the Neighbourhood Plan, and will result in a worsening of the existing community imbalance, to submit their individual objection to the Council in time to meet the deadline of Monday 6 February. A sentence or two, making clear that this is an objection, is all that is required. Submission may be made online following the link marked Public Representations found by clicking here. Alternatively you may object by emailing the Case Officer Laura Caller at Laura.Caller@exeter.gov.uk.
OTHER APPLICATIONS FOR STUDENT ACCOMMODATION to which objections have been or will be made on behalf of the Forum, in defence of the Neighbourhood Plan include:
16 Mowbray Avenue. 16/1560/03 This property is in one of the 9 streets in St James exempt from Article 4 Direction, so no planning consent would be needed for change of use to a 6 bed student HMO. However, the proposal is to make it a 7 bed HMO and this does require planning consent. Would one more student bed matter? If permission were granted, would it act as an enticing precedent for landlords of existing 6 bed HMOs to follow? What message would consent send out regarding the Council's commitment to its own rationale behind the Article 4 Direction in St James – and St James Neighbourhood Plan?
35 – 37 Sidwell Street 16/1530/03 (above existing vacant Poundstretcher store) 8 self-contained dwellings and 28 bed purpose built student accommodation (PBSA). St James Neighbourhood Plan suggests further PBSA might appropriately be accommodated in Sidwell Street, however, this was based on compliance with its policy for development on the Football Club / Yeo and Davey site. Now that the approved development on this latter site will provide 320 bed student accommodation rather than homes for a variety of groups including working people, families and elderly people wishing to downsize, further increases in the student population resulting from additional PBSA on Sidwell Street could not be absorbed while achieving the overall aim of improving community balance.
Cheeke Street 17/0053/03 a new PBSA 7 storey block for 150 students on the site of the current British Heart Foundation store. Although not actually within St James, it is so close as to affect our neighbourhood, especially with the 588 bed PBSA planned for the nearby bus depot site.
OTHER PLANNING MATTERS:
Of course, it is not just the issue of community balance that we focus on, and it is not only applications for student accommodation that concern us ! Any application of relevance to the Neghbourhood Plan is considered. For example, a current application has caused us to consider:
Would more restaurants/ cafes and hot food takeaways be a good idea on Sidwell Street?
The application 16/1241/03 for the ground floor space on the now empty Poundstretcher site has also caused concern to Steering Group. It is proposed that the existing space be divided into 3 units, all food outlets, either restaurant/cafe or takeaways. Steering Group and one of our Planning and Design Panel experts have raised objections with the Case Officer as we do not feel that adding to the existing number of food outlets / takeaways in Sidwell Street will help to realise the Council's own vision for Sidwell Street as a secondary shopping centre, nor the Neighbourhood Plan's vision:
'defining a future character for Sidwell Street that helps it to respond to the shifting balance of uses and new development proposed in the Grecian Quarter, and which helps to secure a long term future for the Methodist Church. This new future is likely to build on the potential for it to accommodate a mix of small scale independent traders that meet the needs of passing trade...'
Details of al the above can be found by entering the application number here on ECC's Planning Search Page.