In a decisive move, Exeter City Council has approved a major housing development in the Haven Banks area, marking the end for familiar structures and sparking public debate. Described by critics as “ugly high-rise hutches,” the project will replace the vacant Range store near the quayside, Tenpin Exeter, and other buildings, making room for four blocks comprising over 400 units, primarily flats, alongside retail, café/restaurant, and commercial spaces.
The decision, which faced over 350 objections from the public, followed a thorough four-and-a-half-hour discussion by the planning committee. Concerns voiced by objectors ranged from potential traffic issues and pollution to fears of compromised privacy.
Representing St Davids, a member of the Green Party expressed reservations about the approved plan, arguing that it does not align with the council’s housing goals for affordable homes and is incongruent with the character of the area. Critics contend that the development would overwhelm neighboring properties, labeling it as “unsuitable for this environmentally sensitive and iconic area of Exeter.”
Local residents, while acknowledging the need for housing, questioned the suitability of the current plan. The developers, identified as Coplan Estates and Welbeck CP, offered an almost £190,000 contribution to local GP services. However, concerns lingered about the strain on existing healthcare facilities.
A representative of the Haven Banks Residents Group raised concerns about the flood escape route, emphasizing the genuine risk to life posed by the proposed development. Some council members proposed a deferral for further discussions, highlighting the project’s significance in setting standards for brownfield development in Exeter.
In contrast, officials defending the plans asserted that they would provide much-needed one or two-bedroom flats and co-living areas. They emphasized the brownfield nature of the site, highlighting that it would not encroach on cherished green spaces. The importance of maximizing urban space to protect the countryside was underscored.
The developers, optimistic about the impact of their proposal, asserted that it would “reinvigorate” the retail park and contribute to the Liveable Exeter housing project. Council officers, while acknowledging residents’ concerns, emphasized the “overwhelmingly positive” impact of the development.
The decision, passed by eight votes to five, comes with specific conditions. Developers are mandated to contribute £100,000 for pedestrian and cycle improvements, £76,448 for play spaces and youth facilities, £187,256 for local GP surgeries expansion, £533,006 for local primary school infrastructure, and £25,250 for early years education. Additionally, £52,000 is allocated to create pedestrian rights of way. The development is expected to generate approximately £787,500 in a community infrastructure levy for the council’s use in various projects.
As Exeter undergoes this significant transformation, the decision ignites debates about the delicate balance between housing needs, environmental considerations, and community concerns. The development, though contentious, signals a shift in the city’s urban landscape, prompting reflection on the nuanced interplay between progress and preservation.