Exeter: Permission is granted to turn an 18th Century hall into co-living accommodation

Conversion plans to turn 18th Century former mission hall into 34 co-living accommodation rooms in Exeter has been given the go-ahead.

A new development for ‘co-living’ in Exeter city centre is to go-ahead after planners decided they could not wait any longer, writes local democracy reporter Guy Henderson.

The plan for Exeland House in Tudor Street, off Western Way, had been held up after the Environment Agency objected on flood risk grounds. After the EA dropped its objections, the owner of an adjacent building asked for more time to make his own case.

He said the plans could compromise future proposals for his own property.

Exeland House is currently used as offices and shops, having been built as a Mission Hall in 1876. The plan is to convert the building into 16 residential rooms across three floors, retaining the its exterior. A three and four-storey extension at the front would provide 18 more rooms.

An officer’s report said: “The proposal comprises sustainable development, consistent with the development plan and local and national planning objectives.”

However, the owners of the Old Vic building next door said theirs was a ‘ramshackle’ site which would be developed at some stage in the future, and they had only found out about the Exeland House plan when an official notice went up on a nearby telegraph pole.

They were worried, they said, about access to their site as well as the prospect of it being overshadowed by the new ‘co-living’ block.

Cllr Michael Mitchell (Lib Dem, Duryard and St James) said: “A lot of hard work has been done on this to get it right. At this late stage we are being asked to consider the impact on an adjacent property that might at some stage in the future change, but we don’t know what those changes are.”

However, he said there was ‘natural justice’ in deferring a decision long enough for the Exeland House and Old Vic owners to discuss the matter between them.

But Cllr Andy Ketchin (Green, Newton and St Leonards) said: “It feels very late in the day – or even after the event – to be bringing this before us again. We need to move on.”

And Cllr Susannah Patrick (Lab, St Leonards) said she was worried that deferring a decision would set a precedent.

“We had a committee meeting and we made a decision,” she said. “Coming back and revising that permission over and over again and considering a building that doesn’t yet exist is not a route we should go down.”

Committee chairman Cllr Paul Knott (Lab, Exwick) said it could be considered unreasonable if members deferred their decision again. A motion to delay the decision was defeated, and the committee voted to allow the Exeland House development to go ahead subject to a number of conditions.

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