New Student Accommodation Opposed By Locals: What’s The Story?

13th June 2023

The University of Exeter is one of the most popular colleges in the UK. However, with over 25,000 students from 130 countries utilising and living on – or near – the campus, it’s fair to say that the face of the town has changed completely.

For the most part, this has been a very positive thing. But when it comes to new developments, the locals are beginning to get increasingly concerned about fundamental changes to the landscape.

This is especially true when it comes to the recently deferred plans for a 1,000-bed student village, which – if successful – will be built on the Streatham Campus of Exeter University.

Since the plans have been unveiled, local residents who surround the site have launched fierce objections, fearing that the development would not only change the scenery around their homes but make their lives intolerable if it were to go ahead.

The Student Accommodation Debate

This isn’t the first time student accommodation proposals have caused issues in the UK. Earlier this year, it was announced that there would be a demolition of a shopping centre in Leeds to make room for a new student development. This similarly sparked a number of complaints about Leeds student accommodation, with locals beginning to panic about the volume of developments and how they are changing the foundation of the town.

But whether it’s in Leeds or Exeter, student accommodation is always going to be needed to meet the high influx of students who are studying at the universities – and bringing financial benefits into the city itself.

In terms of the Leeds project, a third of the units in the shopping centre have been empty for years, and businesses have told the owners that they plan to leave when the leases expire. In this way, the demolition leeds will be seeing is all about renewal and regeneration, with positive impacts for the town as a whole.

The same can be said for Exeter, but as always with new developments, it’s important to look at what exactly the locals of Dunvegan Close and Elmbridge Gardens are complaining about before making that judgement.

The Development Will Change Exeter’s Skyline

According to residents who live in the area where the proposed plans will be developed, the 155-bed four-storey block, ST (B1), will be surrounded on three sides by private households.

Because the proposed new Exeter block will be placed on what is known as “Cardiac Hill” – which is a steep hill that plays a big part in the Exeter skyline –  residents say that it would lessen the visual impact, risk their privacy, peace, as well as pedestrian and vehicular access.

According to one resident, the plans are actually in contravention of Policy 4.19, meaning they do not respect local context and would be a detriment to the local amenity and character of the area.

In this way, there seems to be less of a furore about increasing the size of student villages and more of a concern about the lack of care taken in finding appropriate sites for upsizing.

Exeter is the second-best university in the UK, so more students and more accommodation in the future are inescapable. But all plans must be thought through efficiently and respectfully.

Just a few weeks ago, the development was recommended to be given the go-ahead, but there has been a deferment, with the possibility of upgrading the current facilities to meet new requirements – and an alternative site found to house block ST (B1) – now also on the table.

Whatever happens, over the next few months, the debate about increased student accommodation – and where they are accommodated – is bound to get louder.