The Appeal Inspector has decided to dismiss the applicant’s appeal against the City Council’s refusal of 22/0397, an application for 10 bedroom purpose built student accommodation in the rear garden of 47 Union Road, itself a student House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) with a licence to accommodate 13 tenants. A victory for all those individuals who submitted objections in defence of our Neighbourhood Plan.

The Inspector agreed that the proposal would harm the character and appearance of the area, and with regard to the Neighbourhood Plan failing to comply with a number of policies: C2, EN4, EN5, and D1.

Click here to view the relevant NP policies


Application 23/1161/FUL: Construction of a three-storey building to create 3 x 2-bedroom flats and associated landscaping. Land Adjacent To No 14 Old Park Road/ Land To The Rear Of 67 And 69 Longbrook Street Old Park Road Exeter

Please continue to help stem the tide; object by 29 October.

The contributions of numerous Trust Members who have submitted their individual objections to the Union Road and Pennsylvania Road applications, above, should not be under-estimated in these decisions. The Board would now encourage all to object to the latest application for a 3 storey block of flats in the rear curtilage of two large student HMOs, 67 and 69 Longbrook Street mentioning issues related, for example, to design and heritage, that are clearly relevant planning policy matters. We suggest care is needed in this instance regarding the issue of community balance! Read the Trust commentary here to find out why. Feel free to draw upon these comments to word your own objection.


This time an application to build a two storey purpose built student accommodation block comprising 6 bedrooms in the rear garden of 70 Pennsylvania Road. Clearly non-compliant with our Neighbourhood Plan by worsening community imbalance, it is over-intensification of building use in a garden which will impact on ecological benefits bordering as it does Devonshire Place Orchard. Furthermore it will reduce the outdoor amenity space for the existing occupants of the property. Again, another inappropriate development in the Longbrook Conservation Area.

In the interest of community balance and defence of the Neighbourhood Plan please send in your objections via the Council’s Planning Portal under reference 23/0652/FUL by the closing date of Sunday 1 October.


On Monday 4 September the outline planning application for up to 9 private residential flats on the site of former Maximum Motors garage in Howell Road was presented to Planning Committee. The planning officer recommended approval explaining that, at face value, the proposal was compliant with all relevant policies but grave concern over the genuine nature of this application remains. The owner has stated his intention to develop the site as student accommodation one way or another and, despite this apparently acceptable alternative outline proposal, he will not withdraw the appeal against his recently refused application to build a 26-bed purpose built student accommodation block on the same site.

Consistent with our Neighbourhood Plan this original application was refused on grounds of community balance but what is to stop this new proposal from being used ultimately as student accommodation? If these Howell Road flats were occupied by three or more unrelated individuals, they would be classed as HMOs and subject to an Article 4 Direction (A4D) designed to prevent single households being used as shared houses. However the Council’s own admission – blaming a lack of “resource and scope” – that it had never enforced the A4D in St James does not inspire confidence.

The reassurance given in the Planning Officer’s Report that A4D will protect the proposed flats from use as student HMOs looks like a hollow promise. We must hold the Council to account and should this development go ahead ensure that none of these flats are used as student HMOs.


A planning application for the development of a 101 bed Co-Living block within the compact residential streets of St James has finally landed:

Demolition of existing buildings and dwelling and redevelopment of site to provide 101-bed co-living accommodation with associated accesses/egresses, landscaping and other external works. Repair Garage And 81 Victoria Street Exeter Devon EX4 6JG

The old Vanborn & Radford garage and the magnificent Victorian villa, Wisteria House, behind are to be demolished to make way for the new development.

The applicant states:

Co-living is a residential community living model, that includes the provision for residents to have their own studio, with access to communal amenity. The co-living standard focuses on professionals that enjoy a sense of community whilst having their own private space. Seeking to provide affordable homes for professionals catering for a mobile generation.

The sole focus on “professionals” is misleading. There is nothing to stop students from renting a room and, apart from the fact that non-students may also apply, the provision is virtually identical to the Purpose Built Student Accommodatuion (PBSA) that has sprung up all around the area. The emphasis on the “mobile generation” confirms whether student or non-student the anticipated tenants will be young, transient residents. This is of course entirely at odds with the vision of a sustainable community enshrined in the Exeter St James Neighbourhood Plan and its overarching aim to restore community balance through planning decisions.

Is this PBSA by another name? The signs are that that’s exactly what it is and the Trust Board urges all members to submit objections in defence of the Neighbourhood Plan and to arrest the worsening dominance of our community by one demographic group, namely 19-25 year olds.

The deadline for objections to application reference 23/0949/FUL is Sunday 17 September, and you may make your views known online through the Council’s Planning Portal (click on the ‘comments’ tab of the application and follow the link either to register, if first time, or log in) or by emailing the case officer, Christopher Cummings at [email protected] and making sure you wish to object.

Before making a submision please read the Trust’s commentary on this application with pointers for objection here.


As part of its Bus Service Improvement Plan Devon County Council is currently consulting on introducing a bus gate on New North Road to provide a more direct route to the city centre for buses traveling from Cowley Bridge to Exeter Bus Station.

Bus gates are sections of the highway which allow the passage of buses and prohibit vehicular traffic (except for buses, emergency vehicles, cycles and certain other exempt classes of vehicle).

If implemented this would stop buses coming down Longbrook Street and turning into York Road. Instead they would travel along a new but very short one-way section between the junction of Longbrook Street to the Sidwell Street/High Street crossroads outside John Lewis currently open only to cyclists. Ironically this is exactly what the former Exeter St James Forum advocated back in 2011 when at the bidding of the new John Lewis store that section of the road was closed to eastbound traffic.

This is entirely consistent with Policy T2 of our Neighbourhood Plan:

T2: Through traffic Design and highways proposals that mitigate the impact of through traffic within St James will be supported. Proposals as appropriate to their scale and location may include; a)  traffic management measures to minimise the impact of traffic on residential and community streets; and b)  signage to direct through traffic away from and around St James.

An impression of what is proposed. Picture courtesy of DCC.

Although the main thrust of DCC’s proposal is to improve bus passenger experience and cut journey times it would also help reduce noise, vibration and importantly — given the location of St Sidwell’s Primary School in York Road opposite Queen’s Crescent Garden — reduce air pollution. A great shame then that proposals don’t go as far as re-routing HGVs as well. Why not make such a comment when responding to the DCC survey?

The consultation is now live and runs until 14 August. Background to the proposals and access to the online survey can be found on the DCC website here.


The Trust’s annual fundraising event was held in Queen’s Crescent Garden on 1 July.

Our band of volunteers setting up.

On a sunny Saturday the community once again came together to support the Queen’s Crescent Garden project. Much needed funds were raised as brisk trade was done at both book and plant stalls and cakes from the refreshment stand went like, well, hot cakes.

Highlight of the day was surely an appearance by “Minerva” the Little Owl who managed to captivate and fascinate everyone.

2023 AGM Update

2023 AGM Update

The AGM held on 6 June was attended by 29 members including Board Members Robyn Connett (Chair), Paul Layton (Secretary), Rebecca Bower (Treasurer), Harry Temple and Beth Osment. A further 17 members appointed a Proxy.

Robyn welcomed members to the meeting and spoke to various aspects of the Annual Report concentrating particularly on the Queen’s Crescent Garden regeneration project. It was noted that although the present climate was not conducive to raising funds necessary for the next phase of the redevelopment, the Board was pursuing the belief that St James had not received its fair share of the neighbourhood portion of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) due under the Localism Act.

Following the dissolution of the Exeter St James Forum the Trust had taken on the role of defending the Neighbourhood Plan and was recognised by the Council as a consultee in respect of planning issues. The Board regularly monitored planning applications and provided relevant responses and commentary where appropriate.

After questions from members the Annual Report was adopted, and the accounts approved. Retiring Board member Beth Osment was thanked for her work and Paul Layton was re-elected as a Director.


After refusal of planning permission for a 26 bed PBSA on this site a new application has been submitted by the owner (23/0583/OUT). At first sight this is much more acceptable being for 7 two-bedded and 2 one-bedded flats. However only outline permission is sought which, if granted, could ultimately allow the development of the premises for student occupation. The Trust believes this to be the owner’s intention.

We urge residents concerned about community balance in St James to respond to this application and request restrictive conditions are placed on any permission granted to ensure there is no subsequent change of use to any form of student housing. The deadline for comments is 18 June.

Read the Trust commentary on this application here