Major student flats plan for site of fire-hit former dry-cleaners in Exeter

A fire-ravaged former dry-cleaners in Exeter could be replaced by five blocks of student flats boasting 350 beds. 

Johnsons the Cleaners in Cowley Bridge Road was destroyed in a blaze  in January 2020 and its buildings were later demolished, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Now plans have been submitted to Exeter City Council for purpose-built student accommodation consisting of 151 studio flats and 199 cluster bedrooms.

There would be five blocks on the site, situated next to the railway line, ranging from three to six storeys in height.

The application states: “The site sits in close proximity to the University of Exeter which lies to the east along Cowley Bridge Road. Directly opposite the site is student accommodation with several buildings used for educational purposes by the university.

“This application offers a full redevelopment of a vacant site following a devastating fire of former laundry buildings.”

An artist's impression of the proposed student flats in Cowley Bridge Road, Exeter. Image from the planning application

An artist’s impression of the proposed student flats in Cowley Bridge Road, Exeter. Image from the planning application

It adds that a three-metre-wide footway along the front of the site frontage is proposed to ‘improve the pedestrian experience’.

Integration of Co Bikes for use by all will ‘offer community benefits and encourage cycling’, say the plans.

The statement concludes: “Overall, the proposal offers a highly-sustainable development of purpose-built student accommodation on a brownfield site, in an appropriate location, close to the university and the city centre.”

City councillors recently approved a separate application to convert the vacant Beaufort House office block on New North Road, next to the iconic Old Firehouse pub, into student flats.

The authority’s planning committee rejected major plans for student and co-living blocks at Exeter’s former Heavitree Road police station in February, criticising the scale and impact of the proposals.

Members will likely consider the Cowley Bridge Road plan later in the year.

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