Student housing approved in conservation area

An inspector allowed 166 bed spaces of purpose-built student housing in a Devon university city after determining that the reduced scale and mass of a second proposal overcame clear objections to the appellant's first scheme.

The alternative proposals involved redevelopment of offices built on garden land severed from the curtilage of a listed house and situated within a conservation area above a wooded escarpment. The inspector considered the site could accommodate either well-designed scheme without the development appearing cramped and harming the streetscene or intruding on the setting of listed buildings. However, removal and pruning of trees along a wooded site boundary would make the development visible in some long-distance views. The inspector judged that the appeal A scheme, with its greater height and mass, would erode the contribution of the site to the green edge of the conservation area. He concluded this harm outweighed the undeniable public benefit of meeting student housing needs, whereas the lower height and reduced mass of the appeal B building would cause only very limited disruption to the tree-lined edge and a minor level of harm to the significance of the conservation area which would be outweighed by public benefits.

The inspector also held that the lesser mass of the second scheme overcame problems of loss of sunlight to occupiers of neighbouring terraced homes which weighed against the first proposal. Despite the concerns of the council and locals regarding an overconcentration of student accommodation in the part of the city, the inspector found no evidence to support  claims of an imbalance in the local community. He concluded that appeal A should be dismissed and appeal B should be allowed.

Inspector: Neil Pope; Hearing


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