Haven Banks homes plan gets go-ahead

Wednesday, 6 December 2023 15:13

By Guy Henderson, Local Democracy Reporter

A new housing development described by one objector as “ugly high-rise hutches” is to go ahead.

It will transform an area around Haven Banks, and got the green light from Exeter City Council despite more than 350 objections from the public.
The empty Range store near the quayside will come down, along with a bowling alley and other buildings to create space for more than 400 homes in four blocks, each five or six storeys high. They will be mainly flats, with some retail, café/restaurant and commercial units.
The application was first submitted in August last year, but has been revised twice since then.
Objectors citied worries about traffic, pollution and loss of privacy among their reasons.
The council’s planning committee sat for more than four and half hours to discuss the application.
Cllr Diana Moore (Green, St Davids), said the plan does not meet the council’s housing aims for affordable homes and is out of character. It would, she said, overwhelm neighbouring properties.
She said that many local residents agree that the “tired” retail park should be redeveloped with much-needed housing, but the current plan – submitted by Coplan Estates and Welbeck CP – is not suitable.
And, she said, even with a proposed contribution of almost £190,000 from the developers to local GP services, surgeries are ‘bursting at the seams’ and residents struggle to see doctors already.
“This is a not-well-conceived development,” she said. “It is unsuitable for this environmentally sensitive and iconic area of Exeter.”
Richard Smith of the Haven Banks Residents Group said the site’s flood escape route is prone to serious flooding. “There is a genuine risk to life,” he said.
Cllr Michael Mitchell called for a decision to be deferred for more discussions, warning: “This is setting a standard for brownfield development in Exeter. If we don’t get this one right, we won’t get any of them right.”
But the council’s portfolio holder for homelessness, Cllr Martin Pearce (Lab, Duryard and St James), said the plans would deliver badly-needed one or two-bedroom flats as well as co-living areas.
And, he said: “This is a brownfield site. It is not taking away any of the green spaces we so cherish.”
Cllr Steve Warwick (Lab, Alphington) added: “It’s important to use that space to the maximum we can, because that’s the only way we will protect the countryside.”
The developers claim the proposals will ‘reinvigorate’ the retail park and deliver new homes. It will also ‘kick-start’ the council’s Liveable Exeter housing project.
Council officers said while residents’ concerns had to be taken seriously, the development would have an “overwhelmingly positive” impact.
And council leader Phil Bialyk (Lab, Exwick) told the meeting: “There has been a plan to regenerate this area for as long as I can remember. It’s ready for change.
“The fact that developers are choosing to invest in this area is a massive vote of confidence in the city. We’re not trying to build Utopia here, we’re trying to build a decent urban environment that people will want to come and live in.”
He said it is important to build on brownfield sites rather than losing green fields, and added: “If we’re not going to expand outwards, we have to go upwards.”
Members voted by eight to five to pass the plans.
Among the conditions, the developers will have to pay £100,000 towards pedestrian and cycle improvements; £76,448 for play space and youth facilities; £187,256 for local GP surgeries expansion; £533,006 towards local primary school infrastructure; £25,250 towards local early years education and £52,000 to create pedestrian rights of way.
Council officers say the development will also generate around £787,500 in a community infrastructure levy which the council can use for various projects.

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