16 December 2020
*Labour councillors, backed by Conservatives, block motion to develop a local planning policy on Co-living
*Labour say policy will form part of the review of the Local Plan, but this could take four years
Progressive Group Councillors have slammed Exeter Labour and Tory councillors over voting down a motion seeking backing for a local planning policy on controversial ‘Co-living’ schemes.
A 251-bedspace accommodation Co-living block on the site of the Harlequins shopping centre recently received approval from the Planning Committee, dominated by members of the ruling Labour Executive, but has seen fierce opposition from heritage groups and local residents. This has resulted in a request to the Secretary of State to call in the Harlequins development. A further 133-bedspace application at the former ambulance station site on Gladstone Road also received approval.
The motion, proposed by Green Councillor Diana Moore, called on Exeter City Council to develop supplementary planning policy which would set out the requirements for Co-Living . The chair of the planning committee responded that such a policy was not necessary because it would be included in the new Local Plan, despite the fact this may not be completed for four more years. All Labour councillors voted against the motion. Cllr Moore said:
“This was an uncontentious proposal over a contentious new form of development. To have a clear policy defining standards for Co-living would be in the interests of local communities in Exeter and those who will live in them, as well as providing guidance for officers, councillors and, critically, developers. The national planning policy framework is silent on Co-living, and other planning authorities in London and Manchester are bringing forward local policies.
Cllr Jemima Moore, independent councillor for Newtown and St Leonards, said:
“Without defined standards, Co-living developments in the city will force people to live in cramped over-priced accommodation while allowing developers to maximise profits. By failing to back a motion supporting a planning policy on Co-living, Labour councillors, backed by the Tories, again put developers in the driving seat.
Cllr Michael Mitchell, Liberal Democrat Councillor who seconded the motion, said:
“The argument that a planning policy on Co-living will be included in the new Local Plan just won’t wash. It could be four years before we see this new plan. The motion invited cross party working to draw on existing adopted policies and agree a clear framework that can inform the work of the Planning Committee. Instead, this committee will have to continue to work on a case by case basis.”
Commenting after the full council meeting, Cllr Mitchell, added:
“In the absence of a Co-living planning policy we are likely to get more applications for what are essentially rebranded student accommodation blocks. When developers are asked to explain the difference between Co-living and student blocks, all they can point to is additional shared amenity space. Co-living in Exeter in effect means more student accommodation that anybody can rent on 12-week contracts.”
Cllr Diana Moore concluded:
“Labour promised a policy on shared living and this motion presented them with an ideal opportunity to deliver this. Instead, it’s been kicked into the long grass. This could mean our city being plastered with these overbearing developments which will have a negative impact on the local area and environment and fail to provide much needed decent affordable housing to rent.”
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