Controversial redevelopment of Exeter's historic Harlequin Shopping Centre to go ahead

The plans include a hotel and other leisure facilities. Credit: Artist impression

Controversial plans to turn Exeter's historic Harlequin Shopping Centre into apartments will go ahead, despite attempts to get them scrapped.

It comes after Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, refused to call the application in.

Exeter City Council approved plans to turn the outdated centre into co-living apartments in October 2020. The redevelopment will also include a hotel and other leisure facilities.

Two blocks will be built on the site. The first would see 251 co-living bedrooms for student accommodation and rental properties. A total of 116 hotel bedrooms would then be built in Block two.

People who opposed to the redevelopment hoped the Housing Secretary would over-rule the council's decision. Credit: Daniel Clark

As well as living spaces, the plans also see the creation of a pocket park, better cycling and walking routes, and the replacement of the pedestrian bridge over Paul Street with a more modern, lightweight one.

Following the Council's approval, requests were made to the Government calling on the Secretary of State to make the final decision by those unhappy with the impact of construction.

But on Monday (4 January) Robert Jenrick said he is satisfied the decision was made at a local level and the plans can proceed.

In deciding not to call the application in, a spokesperson for the Government said: “The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26 October 2012.

"The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.

“The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.”

The co-living flats will be for students and renters. Credit: Artist impression

Meanwhile Cllr Emma Morse, Exeter City Councillor's Lead Councillor for Planning, said she was pleased with the outcome.

“We always believe that local decisions should be made by those who understand the local communities the most – local authorities via the democratic planning process," Cllr Morse said.

“I’m glad that the government has deferred to the council and accepted our original decision for this application to go ahead,” she added.

When the scheme originally went before councillors in Exeter, officers said the balance test - with regard to heritage assets - had been satisfied.

According to the council, the redevelopment would have no adverse impacts that are considered to significantly or demonstrably outweigh the economic, social and environmental benefits it would have.

A spokesperson said: “Planning officers have concluded that the benefits of the scheme, which are significant, outweigh this harm.

"These benefits include economic growth in the form of job creation and expenditure in the City Centre, delivery of housing to help with the Council’s lack of five year housing supply, significant public realm improvement works along Paul Street and on the corner of Paul Street and Queen Street, improved public access and setting of the City Wall, with an ‘interpretation centre’, and a biodiversity net gain of 616 per cent.”

Read more: