Developer dead keen to transform old Exeter mortuary into an office

A former mortuary in Exeter will be turned into an office if a planning application is successful. 

The building is in the grounds of the former Digby Hospital Exeter City Asylum which opened in 1886.

The hospital was absorbed by the NHS in 1948, but closed in 1987.

Soon after, the site was divided to allow for new-build houses, a retail park and a supermarket.

The main buildings were also converted to residential use, but the two former mortuary premises were left untouched during the conversion of the surrounding area in the 1980s.

Plans had previously been put forward to turn the site at Clyst Heath into a residential home, but they were refused.

Now, Crayon Architects, on behalf of the freeholder Michael Joy, have submitted plans to change the use of the former mortuary building to an office.

Justifying the proposals, a statement with the application says: “The proposed office use is appropriate in the context of residential properties in the vicinity.

“With the lack of council backing for residential use, the applicant has heeded the latest council advice that an office use will be supported.

“The building stands as a monument to the former hospital, but a lack of viable use over the last 30 years has led to damage and decay.

“It would generally benefit from being brought back into use and a programme of preservation and enhancement.

“At present, the building is boarded up for security. This is unsightly in the residential neighbourhood and does not enhance the character of the historic setting.

“Planning guidance promotes the conversion and reuse of historic buildings.

“In this case, a small and unique office could be created with minor alterations to the building fabric.

“Internally, no features of architectural merit remain, as the vacant building has been a target for vandalism and antisocial behaviour.

“Thermal upgrades to the external walls, roof and floor will create a suitable environment for office use.

“In conclusion, with only minor changes to the fabric of the building, this historic structure could be converted into a functioning office.

“This would naturally blend into the character of the existing neighbourhood.”

Exeter City Council will determine the fate of the application.

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