Student flats U-turn at Exeter ambulance station site

A coincidence but a very prophetic one – Exeter needs to take a different direction – Owl

Daniel Clark 

Plans for the redevelopment of the former ambulance station in Exeter will now see a purpose-built high-quality co-living development rather than student flats provided.

The latest proposals for the redevelopment of the Gladstone Road have been drawn up following in-depth discussions with Exeter City Council planners over many months.

The original scheme from the Watkin Jones Group would have seen the existing buildings on Gladstone Road demolished and replaced with a five storey student flats block of 154 bedspaces in a mixture of studios and cluster flats – 37 studios and 117 cluster rooms.

But those plans have now been revised and will instead see 134 co-living studios provided on the site.

Iain Smith, Planning Director for Watkin Jones, said: “We know that Exeter City Council has identified that co-living developments such as this will provide much-needed housing to help retain graduates in the city, helping it meet its ambitions for employment and productivity growth.

“We have been working closely with the council’s planning team for many months to bring forward proposals to help the city meet its ambitions and have incorporated a number of design changes following those discussions.

“The proposed scheme has been completely redesigned to reduce scale and massing. The introduction of pitched roofs means the building sits very comfortably within the immediate neighbourhood. We have also achieved larger room sizes for the 134 co-living studios, each of which will accommodate a double bed, kitchenette, bathroom, study area and casual seating within a 20 sq. m room – larger than the average co-living studio in other UK cities.

“The Gladstone Road co-living development provides high-quality managed accommodation for independent living with ground-floor communal areas including a large multi-station kitchen and dining area, a fully equipped laundry, a dedicated games room, computer room and lounge area.

“Tenants will be able to walk, cycle or catch a bus to their place of employment, whether it is in the city centre, the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, the Met Office or Exeter Science Park, for example.

“The location is also ideal for residents to be able to take advantage of the city’s major leisure, entertainment, and retail offerings.

“Our proposal will also, unlike purpose-built student accommodation, contribute directly to the city by way of council tax which will be paid via the building’s operator.

“Besides the immediate benefits to the local area and the city as a whole, the sale of the site will also release funds to the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

“This development will provide high-quality accommodation in the heart of the city, helping the council achieve its ambition of balanced and sustainable communities in Exeter, while retaining graduates in key fields such as digital and climate change.”

Subject to planning permission, it is hoped that the accommodation will welcome its first new residents in 2022.

Exeter City Council planners will determine the fate of the application at a later date.

The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has previously confirmed that the Exeter ambulance station in Gladstone Road is being sold with the sale said to be ‘progressing’ and that they are in the process of identifying a suitable alternative site in Exeter.