Clock Tower Hotel

Last updated: 11th June 2019

Exeter College given the go ahead to convert Clock Tower Hotel to student accommodation

A further setback to the goal of a re-balanced community of St James came with the approval of an application to change Clock Tower Hotel into boarding accommodation for 25 Exeter College students.

The Forum wishes to thank all of you who objected to the application and so ensured that it was at least taken to Planning Committee. Despite this setback, it is important that the local community continues to show its determination to fight for its  sustainability in the face of seemingly never-ending pressure to accommodate more  students at the expense of permanent residents.

It was very disappointing that despite nearly 50 letters of objection and just a single letter in support, together with the well-reasoned attempts of Councillors Kevin Mitchell and Keith Owen, as well as Forum Chair, Anne Jobson, to persuade Members of Planning Committee to reject the officer's recommendation, the application was approved. Councillor Percy Prowse, who sits on the Committee, was one who voted against the proposals. We are grateful to each of our councillors for standing firm in his support of the Neighbourhood Plan and the re-balancing of St James.

The permission was granted on the understanding that the accommodation would be used by 16-18 year old students, solely from Sunday night to Friday morning in term time, and so the local residents will be sure to keep this in mind. The College has been careful in the wording used in the required Management Plan Heads of Terms and while stating that preference will be shown to these younger students, and supervision, including a 10pm curfew, will apply to all under 18s, it certainly does not preclude the use by its over 18 students who would not be subject to the same supervision.

This comes particularly hard after the very encouraging news that another property in the same terrace, had reverted from being a student HMO, with a family purchasing the property as its own home. So - one significant step in the desired direction quickly undone by the approval of this conversion to student accommodation, when the planning officers were well aware that acceptance of a genuine realistic offer would have seen an application for conversion of the Hotel back to the two original family houses!
Such return of properties from HMOs to family houses is a rare exception, despite being oft-cited by the City Council when approving purpose-built student accommodation block (PBSA) applications as the reason communities should welcome increasing numbers of PBSA. It won't be encouraged when approval for student accommodation continues to be granted nearby!

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