Agenda item

Planning Application No. 23/0232/FUL - Apparelmaster, Cowley Bridge Road, Exeter

To consider the report of the Director City Development.



The Principal Project Manager (Development Manager) (HS) presented the planning application for the construction of new buildings for Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (Sui Generis use) with associated landscaping, servicing and infrastructure works (Revised Plans).


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management) (HS) described the layout and location of the site through the site location plans, aerial views and photos of the site, 3D visualisation, site layout, elevations, site sections, cycle parking and CGI, the report also presenting the following key issues:-


·         the principle of development involving loss of employment land and PBSA;

·         scale, design and appearance;

·         contamination and flood risk;

·         impact on residential amenity;

·         access; and

·         wildlife, ecology and biodiversity.


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management (HS) provided the following additional detail:-


·        the proposal was for the construction of four new buildings of up to six storeys for purpose-built student accommodation (Sui Generis use) with associated landscaping, servicing (from Cowley Bridge Road) and infrastructure works, with two disabled parking spaces to be provided on site;

·         the development would provide 350 student bed spaces, arranged in four blocks as 154 studio bed spaces (of which 17 would be accessible studios) and 196 beds in 35 cluster flats;

·         Block A at the southern end would be five storey, the top floor being recessed. Blocks B and C were six storey with the top storey being recessed. Block C had an additional five storey wing on the Cowley Bridge Road frontage. Block D would be an articulated open L shape, with a three-storey wing fronting Cowley Bridge Road and a five-storey wing running back towards the railway line;

·         the blocks would be set back from the rear of the pavement. Spaces between the buildings provide landscaped amenity space and glimpsed views to the Exe Valley. A minor part of the site, which ran behind dwellings on Cowley Bridge Road, was identified as a wildlife enhancement area; and

·         ground floor communal internal amenity space would be provided in Block C, which had a direct entrance onto Cowley Bridge Road to facilitate potential community use. 


The recommendation was for approval, subject to the completion of a legal agreement and conditions.


The Principal Project Manager (Development Management (HS) provided the following responses to Members’ queries:-


·         the Design Review Panel had not been involved with the proposal but there had been extensive liaison with the Council’s Urban Design Officer;

·         condition 18 covered external materials with an appropriate regard can be made to embodied carbon;

·         the local community had been consulted on the use etc. of the community room which would be 150 square metres;

·         the use of the rooms out of term would be secured by the management plan with a restriction on the length of letting which was common to such student schemes;

·         cycle parking would meet Sustainable Transport SPD guidance and there would be no car parking other than for two disabled spaces;

·         the design was compatible with existing student accommodation in the area with use of red brick and cladding elements on the roof; and

·         the prevention of fireworks could be secured through the Student Management Plan secured through the Section 106 Agreement.


Councillor Pearce, having given notice under Standing Order No. 44, spoke on the item. He raised the following points:-


·        purpose built student accommodation was suitable on a narrow, brownfield site between a busy road and busy rail-line and it would not be particularly desirable for residential accommodation. It was the right development in the right place and avoided the continuation of an industrial use with associated heavy lorry use;

·         he welcomed the consultations which were undertaken with the Cowley Bridge and West Garth Residents’ Associations;

·         the widening of the footpath, provision of a cycle path and a contribution of over £100,000 towards GP provision in the area were also welcomed;

·         the flexible use of a community room, to be secured through a Section 106 Agreement was welcome;

·         the development would provide secure accommodation for students;

·         the heights of the buildings have addressed the concerns of overlooking neighbouring residential properties; and

·         some residents have remarked on the general need for more social and affordable housing.


Sue Sparling, speaking in support of the application, made the following points:-


·         representing Metropolitan and District Securities;

·         early consultations were carried out with the West Garth Residents’ Association and the use of the community centre would be free of charge for residents groups;

·         whilst brick work had a longer longevity than some other materials, extensive research was being undertaken to reduce the impact of embodied carbon;

·         the number of units had been reduced from 372 to 350 and cycle provision had been maximised;

·         the design provided a positive contribution to the neighbourhood with open views to the countryside with articulated frontage; and

·         the development provided natural surveillance and the 65% provision of open space provided for significant biodiversity gain.


She responded as follows to Members’ queries:-


·         there would only be two parking spaces which would be designed for accessible use and the extensive provision of cycle spaces would encourage non carbon travel;

·         there were differing views on design and, rather than using the Design Review Panel, the applicant had recruited its own design officers; and

·         appropriate controls on the use of fireworks would be incorporated into the agreements with occupants as part of the management plan.


The Director City Development in conclusion, advised that the development would provide additional purpose built student accommodation further reducing pressure to convert residential accommodation. It would respond appropriately to the overall context of the site in the shadow of the Streatham Campus and would fit in well with the existing landscape. The Environment Agency had withdrawn its original objections as an appropriate Flood Risk Assessment, sequential site search and mitigation through design had been provided with regard to the site being in Flood Zones 2 and 3 and a Flood Emergency Plan would be required by condition.


Members expressed the following views:-


·         the proposal offered one of the better designed student accommodation in the city on a brownfield site, broken into blocks, reflecting other student residences with a respectful relationship to neighbouring residential properties;

·         provision of the free non-commercial use of a community room was welcome as was the £106,240 contribution for GP surgeries expansion;

·         long term issues around car usage in the area may emerge over time and that, whilst the site is appropriate for use as student accommodation, there remains a problem of a lack of community balance overall in the area.


The recommendation was moved, seconded and carried unanimously.


RESOLVED that, subject to the completion of a Legal Agreement under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) to secure the following:-


·         £106,240 for GP surgeries expansion;

·         Student occupation and management plan;

·         public access to amenity room;


All Section 106 contributions should be index linked from the date of resolution.


the Director City Development be authorised to APPROVE planning permission for the construction of new buildings for purpose-built student accommodation (Sui Generis use) with associated landscaping, servicing and infrastructure works (Revised Plans), subject also to the conditions and informatives set out in the report (the detailed wording of which may be varied).


and further RESOLVED that the Director City Development be authorised to REFUSE planning permission for the reasons of absence of the matters listed in the conditions being secured if the legal agreement under Section 106 Agreement under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended) is not completed within six months from the date of this Committee or such extended time as agreed by the Director City Development.





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