Co-Living Con

Green Party Councillor, Diana Moore, has condemned the “Co-living Con” being proposed by the developers of the Harlequins Shopping Centre. The developer’s brochure, which describes the development as ‘micro-living’, claims the development will be for “freelance workers, people working away from home and young professionals” [1] In addition to residents’ concerns about the scale of the two tower blocks, which would be up to 8 storeys high in a city centre conservation area, Cllr Moore believes that young people and the city are being let down by the developers.

Cllr Moore said: “The developers boast that this is about bringing co-living to Exeter. But it’s a co-living con. Their plans are more like a giant eight-storey warehouse.

Co-housing is a great idea if developed and managed by the residents properly to offer affordable accommodation with shared facilities. But the developer of this project acknowledges that the planned 298 separate co-living units are equivalent to just 165 dwellings. It appears to follow the same floor plans as the pre-application consultation showing student housing which was soundly rejected at that stage.

Given that tenants are expected to rent for anything between three months to three years, this density represents an unacceptably tiny living space and the developers do not demonstrate how it meets even minimum space standards for decent housing set out by Exeter City Council [2]“.

Cllr Moore also claims the developers will avoid development fees. She said:

The council must not accept this application as a hybrid use despite the similarity of the plans to either student housing or a series of HMOs. If it is approved the developers will not be obliged to pay a penny in Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) or provide the normal percentage of affordable housing. Any planning contributions to the City Council’s pot for community spending and infrastructure will have to be negotiated separately by the Council. If this development was flats for sharing, for example, the levy contribution would be at least £350,000.

This development is demonstrably not affordable housing. Nor does it make any contribution to affordable housing elsewhere. They appear to have found a way to by-pass the normal means of regulating both housing and student blocks. Labour promised not to have developers build student accommodation on Council land. But they have rushed to embrace this concept [3], which is “luxury student housing plus”. We need flexibility in housing provision but should not let the developers ride rough shod over established standards, developer contributions and affordability.

“Councillors are waiting for the Council’s housing needs survey to inform the development of such ideas – which must be underpinned by proper planning standards. No one would disagree that the Harlequins is past its sell by date or that it makes sense for city centre living to be more densely built, including sharing with others, but it must be decent and affordable housing – not warehousing for people.


1. Planning statement submitted by developers 1.8


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