17 November 2020
The Progressive Group has decried the decision by the Exeter City Council Planning Committee to allow another co-living development in the city as forcing people to live in cramped accommodation while allowing developers to maximise profits. The 133-room development at the former ambulance station site on Gladstone Road was backed by seven councillors, with four voting against and two abstaining.
Co-living is presented as accommodation for young people and key workers, but Progressive Group councillors say it is simply ‘rebranding student housing in a way which enables developers to avoid paying developer levies’ and fails to provide decent homes.
Councillor Jemima Moore, who is an independent councillor representing the Newtown and St Leonard’s ward where the development will be built, made a representation to the meeting. She said:
“The scale of this development is overbearing and will have a negative impact on the local area and environment. The development will overshadow neighbouring properties, blocking out light and will also mean the loss of a prominent and much-loved ash tree in Gladstone Road.
“Co-living is an experimental concept that is gambling with people’s lives. It is an approach that seeks to maximise profits by squeezing as many people as possible into spaces that fail to meet national space standards. What this area of the city desperately needs is a mix of homes including affordable family homes.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr, Michael Mitchell, who is a member of the planning committee and voted against the development, said:
“The design of these miniscule rooms reveals developers are just rebranding student accommodation in a way which enables developers to avoid paying developer levies. If they are genuinely intended for essential workers, they are an insult. Especially since there is no stipulation that even the smallest rooms are for single occupancy. Couples could find themselves trying to live in a room which is only 18ft squared.”
“These living spaces represent little more than hotel rooms, which might be fine for a few nights, but represent cramped living for the longer term and are unfit for a decent quality of life.”
“By approving this height of building in the area other developers wanting to build on the police station site will seek to build similarly high or even higher buildings.”
Diana Moore, Green Party councillor, concluded:
“Labour complained that any opposition to this development were red herrings. We say it is treating people like sardines.
“Again, another co-living development has sunk to new depths – casting aside minimum space standards and ignoring the need for affordable housing in the city. In the meeting Labour stated their party’s commitment for Co-living – but there is no Council policy setting out what Co-living is, what standards are expected and how much developers should pay towards community infrastructure.”
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