Student accommodation vs Affordable Housing for rent

Briefing notes on:

Student accommodation vs Affordable Housing for rent

 Planning background

 It is worth pointing out that planning is not as straightforward as it appears to be – and the upperhand seems to be the control of developers. It’s a capitalism system!

Planning Committee can’t refuse applications just because they don’t like them…need to be on planning grounds, contained within planning policy documents.

The main one is the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] introduced by Tory-led coalition in March 2012 – designed to make the planning system less complex and more accessible – and vastly simplify the number of policy pages about planning.

Paragraph 11 of the NPPF states: “Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.”

Key to the NPPF paragraph 14: “At the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which should be seen as a golden thread running through both plan-making and decision-taking.”

As a result developers bring forward only developments that make them money> More often than not, they seek planning permission for what they want to sell [4- or 5-bed detached houses] rather than what Exeter needs more of [1-, 2- or 3-bed homes]. And until thy think they can sell these properties, they often “land bank”.

If Planning Committee turn down applications for spurious reasons, they may be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate – prefer decisions to be made at local level, rather than a beaurocrat in Bristol or beyond.

Student Accommodation

Whether we like it or not, the University is expanding – and ECC has little or no control of increase in student numbers.

And these students need to be housed somewhere.

In 2007, ECC introduced a Supplementary Planning Document [SPD] which aimed for the provision of as much purposed-built student accommodation [PBSA] as possible to reduce the impact on the private sector housing.

The SPD sets out 9 principles relevant to consideration of proposals related to the University. The relevant principles are as follows:
– ECC will expect 75% of additional student numbers attending the University to be accommodated within purpose-built accommodation.
– ECC will seek the provision of as much purpose-built student housing as possible to reduce the impact on the private sector housing market.
– ECCrecognises that relatively high density managed accommodation on appropriate sites will need to make a significant contribution to meeting future [student housing] needs.
– ECC favours provision of further student accommodation in the following general locations:- City Centre – St David’s Station/Cowley Bridge Road area and more intensive use of the Duryard Campus, with some provision of the Streatham Campus.

In addition, ECC issued Supplementary Planning Guidance on Student Accommodation Development in Residential areas in 2008. The guidance noted that changes of use from family dwellings to student occupation was likely to have most impact upon the character and balance of a community because of the loss of other age groups as well as the introduction of more students. It is proposed to restrict further student accommodation in all these forms in areas where there is considered to be an over concentration of students.

The guidance introduced proposals that require planning permission may take the following forms:
• New developments, extensions or conversions into student hall accommodation
• Construction, extension or changes of use to HMO accommodation.
• New dwellings, conversions or changes of use to dwellings that have an internal design that may be intended for student occupation.
• Extensions of existing dwellings where there is evidence of occupation by students

And from 2014, ECC introduced an Article 4 Direction, to limit excessive concentrations of student Houses in Multiple Occupation [HMO] in some wards to avoid adverse impacts upon those areas.

One of the biggest benefits that come with PBSAs is that they reduce pressure on the existing housing stock.

There is an outline planning application for a new PBSA on East on the University of Exeter Streatham Campus [ECC Planning Application 16/1232/01]. The application is for 1300 units of student accommodation.

If these students where to be accommodated in HMO, this would need some 260 houses [assuming 5 students to a house] – that’s the equivalent to 2 Victoria Streets taken up to house these 1300 additional students. By delivering this PBSA we prevent that happening – allowing local families to have homes, or even freeing up existing HMO to be used by single private renters under the age of 35, who are only entitled to housing benefit at the shared accommodation rate

Like private developments being delivered by volume house builders, PBSA do generate profit for the developer. And what a profit!

The Printworks – one of Exeter biggest blocks of student flats, 492 studio and multi-bedroom/cluster apartments on Western Way – was sold for £40m just a year after it was completed at a cost of £16m. [Huge block of 500 student flats in Exeter sells for £40mE&E On-line, 16 August 2014].

One of the problems we face is that planning applications for PBSA seem to hit the pages of the Express & Echo precisely to cause outrage – well I say pages, its mainly for the benefit of social media, where it’s known as click-bait which it turn earns money for the Echo.

With PBSA, ECC Planning Committee are able to impose conditions on the development – most notably in regards to the need for a management plan, which often takes the forms of: “Members noted that a Management Plan for the day to day operation of the Student Accommodation was required to be implemented by way of a legal agreement”.

PBSA in the city centre are close to the clubs, pubs and other entertainment on offer in Exeter, and students returning home cause little or no disturbance to local residents – one of the problems arising out of PBSA on the University campus  is the transient noise of students returning home after a night in the city centre.

Social Housing

“Offering affordable housing choices whilst building and supporting communities”.

Unlike many local authorities, ECC is a stock-holding authority

ECC current has a housing stock of around 5,000 properties – and housing associations in the region of 3,000.

In 2013, ECC took out £56m loan to buy this our own stock under a scheme known as self-financing. The aim was to give us control over our own destiny.

But it’s not quite working out like that – we knew that we would still have to retain Right To Buy.

When we bought the properties, we had to submit a business plan.  At the time, the Govt insisted that the plan set out a formula for rent increases over 10 years – 1% over CPI for 10 years. However, last year reneged on that promise with provisions in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, which requires registered providers of social housing in England to reduce social housing rents by 1% year on year for 4 years from a frozen 2015 to 2016 baseline.

Initially this seems a good deal for tenants – but what it means for ECC is that £8m will be lost from Housing Revenue Account [HRA] – money lost for planned maintenance and emergency repairs, but most importantly for building more social housing.

When we moved to self-financing, the £56m loan took us to the Govt imposed borrowing cap – Labour’s pledge to remove this cap would allow ECC to take on extra borrowing to help cover the cost of building more social housing.

Council Own Build Programme

Since coming back into power in Autumn 2010, ECC has been building council houses – not many, not enough, but at times the best in the SW and 5th in the UK.

– 3 properties at Rowan House in Sivell Place, Heavitree

– 18 one and two-bedroom apartments forming Knights Place, off Merlin Crescent in Mincinglake

– 6 at Barberry Close off Bennett Square in Mincinglake
– 8 at Silverberry Close off Brookway in Whipton
– 6 at Reed Walk in Priory. Reed Walk, Newport Road

All of these had been developed on in-fill sites – former garage sites and similar.

Currently being built on-site now,  26 one and two bedroom apartments to provide quality housing that for elderly residents, on the car park next to Rennes House.


Plans for the future include an £10m [with additional funding from Govt] Extra Care scheme designed to provide 50 affordable homes for residents over 55 with care needs in Millbrook Village situated off Topsham Road. These are being specifically designed to help assist people with dementia.

All of these have been or will be built to Passivhaus standard – a world leading standard in energy efficient design and construction. Means reduced energy bills for our residents – help address fuel poverty.

It is  is slightly more expensive to build to PassivHaus standard – but not too much more. And it’s a cost we think is worth bearing.

ECC have been pioneering this standard  – we were the first local authority to adopt PassivHaus, and now others now – such as Plymouth and Nowich to name but two – are following our lead.

And our expertise is being shared – ECC and major partners joined together as Exeter Sustainable Energy Efficient Developments [EXESeed] Contractors Framework to assist in the procurement of contractors to deliver energy efficient developments across the City, and beyond.

For more information on Exeter City Council’s PassivHaus programme is contained with a Low Energy Development Information Pack.

And we arenow looking at ways of retro-fitting PassivHaus – or other energy efficency measures – to our properties. On Monday 07 Novemeber, ECC’s Exectutive approved funding for an EU pilot to look at trialling such measures.

This innovated policy needs to be set against Govt’s decision to abolish the The Code for Sustainable Homes, which was announced in a Written Ministerial Statement by Eric Pickles on 25 March 2015. Now houses only need to be to BREEM Code 4 in relation to water and energy targets

Affordable housing for rent

First a few terms [from NPPF]:
– Affordable housing: Social rented, affordable rented, intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Sometimes self-build housing is considered affordable housing  Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.

Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.

– Social rented housing is owned by local authorities and private registered providers (as defined in section 80 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008), for which guideline target rents [50% of local market rent[  are determined through the national rent regime.hority or with the Homes and Communities Agency.

– Affordable rented housing is let by local authorities or private registered providers of social housing to households who are eligible for social rented housing.. Affordable Rent is subject to rent controls that require a rent of no more than 80% of the local market rent (including service charges, where applicable).

– Intermediate housing is homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels subject to the criteria in the Affordable Housing definition above. These can include shared equity (shared ownership and equity loans), other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent, but not affordable rented housing.

Homes that do not meet the above definition of affordable housing, such as “low cost market” housing, may not be considered as affordable housing for planning purposes.

ECC presses for as much affordable housing to be for social rent

ECC has a clear policy contained in Core Strategy/Local Plan [adopted 2011] for 35% affordable housing on all developments of 10 or more [initially 3 or more, but Govt changed low limit in 2013!].

This can be in the form of housing on-site or a commuted sum for such housing elsewhere in the city.

And we have a Housing Enabling Team that vigorously enforces this!

Developers try it on: over-stating costs and under-estimating profits.

McCarthy & Stone lodged an application for land next to Sainsbury in Pinhoe – said could afford total cost of affordable housing that was required by ECC. Took to appeal and independent accessor said they could. Came back with a revised offer – but still too low to be acceptable – planning permission refused, but now back talking to ECC!

And another developer said before it came before committee that it couldn’t afford any social housing as it spent too much on acquiring the land. Ended up paying ECC a commuted sum of £1m

Some figures:
In 2010/11, 108 affordable homes
In 2011/11, ECC delivered 170 affordable homes
In 2012/13, ECC delivered 26 affordable homes
In 2013/14, ECC delivered 100 affordable homes
In 2014/15, ECC delivered 80 affordable homes
In 2015/16, ECC delivered 74 affordable homes

And 254 currently being build on-site, and more in the pipeline as planning permission has been granted for them.

Threats for the future

Housing and Planning Act seems to remove requirement for affordable housing for rent –

– Starter housing for sale.

Exclusively for first time buyers aged over 23 and under 40, and for sale at 20% per cent below normal market prices. The Act creates a new duty on all local authority planning departments to promote the supply of starter homes in their area.

The Act also allows the government to set regulations requiring starter homes to be included on residential sites as a condition of securing planning permission.

 Sale of higher value vacant local authority homes

Tory manifesto set out plans to require local authorities who have retained ownership of their stock to sell higher value homes as they become vacant.

Govt may impose levy on such properties – even if LA doesn’t sell them. And levy goes to Govt to finance Right to Buy on Housing Association properties.

So much for self-financing!

– High income social tenants: mandatory rents (Pay to stay)

The Act requires local authority tenants with a higher income to pay a higher rent. Initially a ‘higher income’ will be defined as a household earning more than £31,000 per year, or £40,000 in London.

Thus a household with 2 adults and a non-dependent chlld earning the *National* Living Wage could be deemed as High Income

ECC currently deem household income of £60k as high income.

The Act requires local authorities to return any additional rental income generated by the policy (minus administrative costs) to the Treasury – again so much for sel-financing!

– Right to Buy

 All Right to Buy receipts – both from local authorities and housing associations – to be returned to Govt, so new replacement homes could, no will, be built elsewhere in the country!


Private Eye | The Homelessness Reduction Bill

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No.1430 | 28 Oct – 10 Nov 2016

Campaigners are cautiously optimistic that a Private Member’s Bill to improve the safety net for homeless people will pass its first Parliamentary hurdle on Friday [28 October 2016].

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, put forward by Conservative MP Bob Blackman with the support of the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee and the homelessness charity Crisis, is modelled on legislation already introduced in Wales.

It would  introduce new duties to prevent and relieve homelessness, in particular by helping single homeless people currently being turned away by councils because they are not in ‘priority need”.

Two immediate tests confront the Bill when it comes to a Second Reading.

First,more than 100 MPs must turn up and vote on a Friday to prevent individual members from talking it out. That effort got a boost when Jeremy Corbyn wrote to his Labour MPs encouraging them to attend.

Second, only backing from the Government can secure enough Parliamentary time to eventually bring the Bill into law. So far, Ministers have made positive noises, but no commitments.

The larger question, though, is whether homelessness will keep rising faster than any legislation can prevent it. Demand for housing is increasing rents even as cuts to Housing Benefit reduce the ability to pay them. More cuts are still in the pipeline, starting with a reduction in the Overall Benefit Cap from 06 November. This will leave tenants in expensive areas and in larger homes across the country with worsening rent shortfalls to be paid from benefits that are frozen until 2020.

Although the homelessness prevention legislation in Wales seems to be working well, that is in the context of a very different attitude to genuinely affordable housing. Whereas Wales is still building social housing and is about to abolish Right to Buy, England stopped funding it in 2010, increased Right to Buy discounts and is about to force councils to sell their higher-value homes as they fall vacant.

Priority Pass | Scene & Heard by David Ziggy Greene [Private Eye No.1430]


APSE Direct News | Homes for all!

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May/June 20216

Homes for all!

Catch up on the latest housing research by APSE and the TCPA, which follows up on our previous research, Housing The Nation: Ensuring Councils can deliver more and better homes


The latest APSE housing research, Housing The Nation: Ensuring Councils can deliver more and better homesis a collaborative effort between the APSE[TCPA] and APSE. Our aim was to establish the latest position on housing across the UK and, crucially, find out how local councils could produce the homes needed to support everybody in their local community.

The latest household projections for England, published in November 2015, suggest we need over 220,000 additional homes each year until 20131 if we are to accommodate the projected growth in households. Currently, however, we are reaching just over half that figure. To catch up by 2020, we will now need to create over 310,000 homes a year over the next 5 years. This in itself is a stark finding; as the goal to provide enough homes slips further away each time we fail to meet these targets, the pressure on housing delivery is inevitably intensified.

Whilst Government policy has been concentrated on the delivery of so-called affordable homes, the research calls into question what we can reasonably describe as “affordable”. Housing shortages, and the resultant high prices and rents, mean that young people are living with parents or in house shares for longer, rather than forming a household of their own. Rising student debt levels and potential future welfare reform are likely to make their position even more difficult. Even if the homes required are actually built, the latest Government  household projections suggest that couples aged between 25 and 34 will be less able to live in their own home n 2031 than their counterparts in 2011.

Housing need has huge implications beyond those unable to afford to buy or rent their own property. Improved planning and better housing have long been identified as essential for improving the health of communities, reducing health inequalities and cutting costs for the taxpayer.

Conversely, poor quality housing and inadequate supply of new homes impacts on the social well-being of communities, with costs to the NHS reportedly at £1.4bn. A lack of decent affordable housing also reduces labour mobility and undermines the ability of our towns and cities to attract new businesses.

A recent CBI survey [London Business Survey, September 2015]highlighted that housing costs and availability in London were having a negative impact on companies’ ability to retain and recruit staff, particularly employees on lower incomes; 57% of businesses surveyed report that housing cost and availability was negatively impacting on attempts to recruit entry level staff.

So what are we, APSE and the TCPA, calling for? We want the Government to develop a housing strategy for the nation that provides decent homes for everyone in society, including those dependent on social and genuinely affordable housing for rent. Whilst efforts have been concentrated on affordable homes to buy, we want the Government to ensure that local authorities are at the heart of this new housing strategy, not least because the definition of “affordability” should be determined locally. Councils are best placed to respond to local need, but they require the freedom and flexibility to deliver new homes.

We are also calling upon Government to reverse its decision to reduce social rents by 1% per year for the next 4 years – this move alone has taken millions away from local authorities’ ability to invest in the social rented sector. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 arguably further removes councils from the equation, introducing new changes changes to Right To Buy and the selling off of the most valuable housing assets.

APSE and the TCPA believe that councils, despite the added burdens placed on them by the Housing and Planning Act, can play a stronger role in driving the delivery of new homes, either on their own or through joint vneture. Our research explores the role of local housing companies working alongside councils to deliver new homes. Council land and assets can help drive investment in the most sustainable locations, and the private rental sector can help meet local housing needs, generating long-term income streams in the process.  Councils investing in  the private rented sector can also encourage others to invest in their local areas, and bring about positive investments. This can include providing greater choice and better quality accommodation for those reliant on the private rented sector. Whilst the private rented sector will not replace the need for social rented homes, it is part of the toolkit available to local councils, allowing them to respond to urgent local housing need.

Case studies within the report have found councils being innovative, using local housing companies.

Thurrock Council established a local housing company, named Gloriana. Wholly-owned by the the council, Gloriana is delivering 1,000 new affordable homes over the next 5 years, as well as a 10% increase – using current projections – in the number of new private sector homes delivered over the next 5 years. All of these new council homes will be built to London Space Standards and Lifetime Homes, reflecting high quality design and materials.

Within the London Borough of Harrow, their Great Estates Model has established a local regeneration company with ambitions to deliver a £1.75bn investment programme into Harrow and Wealdstone town centres. Included within the regeneration plan is the delivery of 5,500 new homes, 2 new schools, around 3,000 new jobs and a district heating network to service major sites alongside a £31.3m funding pot through the Mayor of London’s Housing Zones scheme.

In Manchester, the Housing Investment Fund – a joint venture between Manchester City Council and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, administered by Tameside Council – was established to deliver private rented sector housing, delivering on local housing need whilst also creating a return for the Local Government Pension Fund.

In Edinburgh, a council-led joint venture using the National Housing Trust initiative is helping to deliver new affordable homes using £182m of private and public funding. However, Edinburgh is not just delivering standard housing units – of 1,055 new affordable homes completing in 2014/15, around 115 homes were specifically designed with older people in mind.

In another best practice example, Aberdeen has created a new council-led joint venture with People For Places, which is set to to deliver homes for key workers on modest incomes. They plan to develop an initial 1,000 affordable homes and 1,000 private development homes, with the potential for a further 1,000 properties and an investment pot for affordable housing and private development of £300m.

We know that the solutions to the housing crisis facing the UK are complex. Yet, our findings show that without local councils in the driving seat, we cannot deliver the homes we need. A failure to local councils at the heart of housing delivery, and to address the need for new social homes to rent, will spell catastrophe for a whole generation struggling to either afford to buy so-called affordable homes, or rent from a largely unregulated private rented sector.

Now is the time for Government to place councils at the heart of delivering homes for all.

APSE Direct News | The Housing and Planning Bill – what’s the problem?

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 March/April 2016

The Housing and Planning Bill – what’s the problem?

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, and Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE, comment on the the key issues in the controversial Housing and Planning Bill.

Currently, the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 is in the second reading stage in the House of Lords. The Bill has been seen as hugely problematic by many, including APSE and the TCPA, because it is still unclear how the actions described in it will help relieve the housing crisis facing the UK, despite the Government claiming their plans will kick-start a ‘national crusade to get 1m homes built by 2020’ and transform ‘generation rent into generation buy’.

Keen to gauge how others working in local government felt about the proposed changes, APSE teamed up with the TCPA to create and distribute a survey to local authorities across the country. This generated some very interesting, and some rather concerning, results. However, before we look at those in depth, it would help to first contextualise the Housing Bill and look and the problems it raises.

The Housing and Planning Bill 2015-16 aims to speed up the current planning permission process, working on the premise that less bureaucracy means more housing can be delivered quickly. This, the Government expects, will encourage people to self/custom build their housing, as well as giving developers some extra opportunities to build more commercial housing. This is welcome news as it gives authorities, private firms and the general public more freedom to build the houses they require. However, many believe this has come too late; though the permission is there, we will struggle to meet the country’s demand of 250,00 homes each year due to a shortage of workers and supplies.

Alongside this, the Government intend to build more Starter Homes for first-time buyers, namely people under the age of 40 who have not previously owned a home. Offering 200,000 homes by 2020, the Government has said there must be a discount of at least 20% to the buyer. These homes, which should be targeting teachers, police officers, nurses and other professional roles, will have a discounted price of no more than £250k outside London and £450k in London, making these properties unaffordable for most of the target workers. These are the kind of people that starter homes should be accommodating, yet they are the ones who will be unable to afford them.

In terms of social housing, the Bill details a Pay to Stay scheme, in which social tenants with incomes of over £30k – over £40k in London – will have to pay market rent on their properties rather than their current social rent. For local authorities, the money this generates must be given to the Government, whilst Housing Associations are able to keep the extra rent money. Moreover, it is considered unviable by many councils who see this as adding to the ongoing problems of a poor private rented market – so forcing people on affordability terms from secure council tenancies into the private rented sector – will do little to alleviate local problems.

As well as this, the Right to Buy scheme is being extended to housing association tenants. This move is deeply worrying as it will lead to a decrease in the amount of social homes available for those in most need. Despite allowing these properties to be sold off, the Government have no plans to give local authorities the funds needed to build more and replace them. This is a major concern for the already-sahky future of social housing.

So what did the APSE and TCPA survey tell us? Well the headline news is that others share our concerns.

We found that 93% of councils do not think that Starter Homes will address affordable housing need.

Moreover, almost 80% of local councils do not think that Starter Homes should be classified as affordable housing, and only 7% of councils think they will address the need for affordable housing in their local authority areas.

We also found that over two thirds of respondents anticipate that they will be building less social and affordable housing as a result of the Government’s plans to reduce social rents by 1% a year for the next 4 years.

This is against a backdrop of 96% of councils describing their need for affordable housing as ‘ severe or moderate’.

Moreover, nine out of 10  councils are concerned that the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants will mean that there will be well socially-rented homes available.

Most starkly for the Government, 53 of respondents are from Conservative-controlled councils – this clearly shows a huge difference of opinion between Conservative Councils, charged with delivering more homes at a local level, and central Government policy.

So with the House of Lords scrutinising key measures in the Housing and Planning Bill, and pressure to deliver the Bill, is there room for concessions?

The answer has to be yes – there is a growing cross-party consensus for a series of amendments to be tabled which may yet ‘gut’ the worst excesses within the Bill.

APSE and the TCPA hopes that with cross-party working, more sensible approaches can be taken to delivering the homes our communities desperately need. It is time now for the Government to listen to local councils; they are best placed to really know and appreciate the impact of housing policy within their communities.

More details can be found at and

#EXcouncil | @ExeterCouncil Budget speech by @ExeterLabour’s @CllrPeteEdwards

Work commitments meant that I’m in Hexham as the special meeting of Exeter City Council set the Budget – and so I missed the “State of the Union” address by the Leader, Cllr Pete Edwards.

The minutes of that meeting will outline what Pete said in his Budget speech, but no worries – I received a copy of what he said

Leader’s Budget Speech
24 February 2015

Lord Mayor, I hold out this Vision for Our Future (Exeter Vision…Our City, Our Future, Exeter Vision Partnership, 2003) to remind us all of the journey we have been on as a city for over a decade, to remind everyone that this city has enjoyed the highest level of growth of productivity of any city in this country and we do not shy of taking difficult decisions.

The city centre is the engine of our local economy and requires disciplined action over the long course to ensure we continue to do what is necessary to direct investment in the city centre.

I am committed to delivering a swimming pool and leisure complex on the Bus and Coach Station site in line with our Corporate Plan and previous decisions taken by this Council.

We continue to work with Crown Estates to deliver a comprehensive redevelopment that will ensure Exeter remains the destination of choice by investors.

The Budget

Turning now to the Budget, I would like to again remind Members, Officers and the wider public that reductions in Central Government funding are amongst the most severe cuts we have faced in living memory. The Council has contented with a 15.6% reduction in Government Formula Grant in setting the budget for 2015/16 and will have to completely reshape itself in order to deliver these ad the additional £3m worth of savings required over the next few years.

An ambitious Council

In spite of this, we are still an ambitious Council and are determined to ensure that the City achieves its potential and our residents receive quality services. We continue to support the City, ensuring it is at the forefront of economic recovery and have supported the delivery of:
– 3,468 new homes since 2011-12 – more that any other district in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay – earning the Council £10.2m in New Homes Bonus
– Since 01 April 2014, 64 affordable homes have been delivered with 235 further affordable homes consented and in the pipeline for national house builders
– 20 new Council homes will be completed by June 2015, with a further 26 under construction for completion later in the year.

The Economy

Last year the Chamber of Commerce reported the highest increase in business confidence. This is reflected in strong performance in the property market, both commercial and housing, the visitor economy, and investment in the city centre.

Over the previous tow years:
– visitors to Exeter have increased by 10.3%
– visitor spend has increased by 14.31%

Plans for the redevelopment of the Guildhall Shopping Centre are full-steam ahead, and we have seen new companies such as Jamie’s Italian, Byron Burger, etc moving into Exeter.

There has been a significant increase in demand for industrial units and a number of large car showrooms have committed themselves to the new Matford Green Business park.

The amount of secondhand office accommodation has shrunk by a half. Indeed, we are now hearing from the property sector that we will have a shortage of supply, such is the demand for accommodation.

It is also important that we recognise the scale of investment that continues that continues to be made in the city by the University of Exeter, the most recent example being the Living Systems building, a £52m capital investment on the University campus.

The most significant investment over the year has been the decision by the Met office to invest over £100m in the new Supercomputer at Exeter Science park. This will be a tremendous boost to our local economy and will mean the early opening-up of the Science Park.

There are a number of other investments that are being made at the Science Park on the back of this decision, and with the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership.

As members will be aware we are investors in the Science Park hub and we play an important part in the Exeter & Heart of Devon Growth Board which administers funding and steers the strategic projects.

On a more local level, we are supporting the development of a local currency – the Exeter Pound – to support local small businesses and independent traders. It is anticipated that the organisation and the currency will be up and running by September 2015 in time for PWC 2015.

As the economy grows we face a shortage of workers in the construction sector. To address this ECC, EDDC and MDDC are due to sign a Construction Skills Concordat. The Concordat will ensure that when the Councils award contracts for capital programme and maintenance work, they give favourable consideration to those companies that have a clear and well evidenced approach to supporting the development of a skilled workforce – for example, in terms of taking on apprentices and recruiting locally. We will work with partners to support the roll-out of the Construction Industry Training Board’s Client-Based Approach.

We wil continue to offer apprentices, develop work experience for those with disabilities, mental health problems and other barriers to work, and work with employers to expand these schemes.

We have 8 apprentices working across the Council and we have appointed 2 apprentices into full-time employment.

Flood Protection Scheme

As a Council, we have also invested in the infrastructure of the city; we have contributed the £3m promised towards the £32m flood defence scheme.

Sport…and the Rugby World Cup

Turning now to a sporting theme, I am sure everybody will share with me in singling out for praise for Jo Pavey this year for her outstanding achievements, and as a fitting tribute we have completed the improvements to Exeter Arena with a completely new running track.

Sticking with the sporting theme, the Rugby World Cup 2015 will be a major event for the city and something we can be proud of.

It is estimated that Exeter being a Host City will generate an extra £39m of economic activity for the city. The city is expected to welcome an additional 120,000 visitors to the city for the duration of of the Rugby World Cup [Source: Ernst & Young]

What members may be less aware of is the work that is going on to build a legacy programme fro the event.

Already this has seem the establishment of a women’s team and recently the holding of a rugby empowering and employment programme.

I am also delighted by the decision of the RFU to host the 7-a-side European Region tournament at Sandy Park on 11 & 12 July.

All bodes well for our local economy. Indeed, Exeter’s economy continues to go from strength to strength, and the momentum of growth we have worked so hard to keep going has now firmly taken hold.

Health & Wellbeing Board

A key part of the legacy work is increasing activity to make Exeter the most active city in the South West. We are working with the Exeter Health & Wellbeing board and other partners to increase levels of physical activity in the city, and to promote the sustainable use of the river, canal, and other green spaces for outdoor leisure activities. Last summer saw a highly successful Ping! Exeer project in the city.

Energy Saving Measures 

We continue to work hard to invest in projects that will reduce our revenue running costs without affecting frontline services, and have begun the programme of delivering £4m worth of energy saving projects using solar panels on our buildings and car aprks, along with replacing inefficient boilers and lighting in our offices.

These projects will deliver tangible savings without affecting frontline service delivery.

Looking to the future

I think it is important that I single out the recent initiative we have taken with the leaders of Teignbridge and East Devon District Councils to develop greater collaboration between us for the sake of the greater Exeter area.

This is a strategic partnership that offers a better way going forward to plan for our economy and I am sure greater collaboration will be the call from National Government of whichever party forms the next Government.

For next year’s Budget we have made another £1.4m of savings to the revenue cost of the Council by a combination of restructuring and efficiency savings. We have again managed to achieve this without a reduction in frontline services but this will be evermore challenging over the next four years.


Finally Lord Mayor, Councillors – the Budget that I am proposing to you this evening aims to deliver the necessary savings,  and to protect and maintain as far as possible the services which the citizens of Exeter need most. I therefore propose to you the recommendation set out in the papers before you in terms og the approval of both the revenue estimates and the capital programme for the year 2015-16.

This will result in the setting of a District Council Tax of £135.05 for a Band D property, an increase of 1.99% over the previous year, an equivalent of £2.63 per year, or 5p per week. This will mean we will still have the lowest District Council Tax in Devon.

I so move

#EXEStThomas – Reflections at the First & Last

Over the past 4 years, I’ve spent far too long opposite the First & Last pub, studying both the bus stop and the junction there.

Refections of the First & Last
Refections of the First & Last

The bus stop there is claimed to be “the most used in Exeter” – but is that because it serves 18 Stagecoach buses every hour (plus additional services from outside of Exeter run by Western Greyhound, County Bus and others) rather than passenger numbers?

And during rush hour, the yellow box junction often gets clogged up – the stop line on Cowick Lane is set back and visibility for cars turning right into Cowick Street from this direction is non-existant as the line of sight into the exit of the junction is blocked by the First & Last.

An unusual view of the First & Last - no traffic on the yellow box junction
An unusual view of the First & Last – no traffic on the yellow box junction

For a long while, the pub has been empty and I had a dream that it might be knocked down to widen the junction to allow for free-floowing traffic!

But that’s not to be.

There is now a planning application lodged with Exeter City Council – 14/4821/03 – for a “change of use from existing public house and one first floor dwelling in to three dwellings plus an additional new build dwelling and associated ancillary facilites.”

The architects planning statement has the following to say:
1.02 Site Analysis
The site and existing building present a number of positive opportunities for development:
– Generous existing footprint.
– Existing interior suitable for conversion to residential.
– City centre location with good public transport connections.
– Surrounded by residential properties.
– Good solar orientation and access to south and west light.
– Large unused site to the rear with existing vehicular access.

So, with the developer delivering 6 cycle parking spaces and an acknowledgment in the planning statement of “good public transport connections (as well as many local amenities within walking distance), why are there plans for 4 vehicle parking spaces?

And what about that “existing vehicular access”?

At present, there is a large open car park with a good view of traffic on Cowick Lane.

Current park car at First & Last
Current park car at First & Last

The developer’s proposed addtional dwelling would be on the site of this car park, meaning cars would exit onto the very busy Cowick Lane along a very narrow alleyway with restricted visibility..

Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 07.19.55

And it worries me that the exit would be directly in line with the STOP line for traffic wishing to turn right into Cowick Street – as I pointed out above, already a source of traffic chaos

It seems to me that this development could easily be car-free, and along with that an understanding that residents wouldn’t be eligible for permits for nearby residential parking zones.

Indeed, perhaps the developer could go further?

In his Autumn Statement in December 2014, the Chancellor announced changes to affordable housing provision,  and developers no longer need to provide affordable housing on projects of 10 homes or less outside of rural areas. (Previously in Exeter, this requirement was for developments of 3 or more as outlined in the  Exeter City Council Core Strategy – akaLocal Plan).

As a consequence, there is no affordable housing provision proposed within this application. Maybe the developer might be able to use this saving as a s106 planning consideration into helping set up a Car Club in St Thomas (see Chapter 11 of ECC Supplementary Planning Document on Sustainable Transport).

Further Reading:
Some of these thoughts formed the basis of comments on ECC Planning Application 14/4821/03
DOWNLOAD from here –  PDF Icon Com – Cllr Paul Bull (0.03 MB)