The success of Exeter University over the last decade has been hugely important to the economy of Exeter. The continued expansion of the campuses at both St Lukes and the main Streatham site has generated considerable additional students numbers. This growth has occurred despite the country generally suffering a deep recession, Exeter faring better than many cities.
The increase in students coming to the city has resulted in a need for additional student accommodation. Student Residences are the hot topic in the local press, barely a week going by without a headline featuring More Student Accommodation planned for the City.
Clearly a balance needs to be maintained whereby the general prosperity and quality of the city is not overwhelmed by student accommodation. The argument for providing affordable housing as an alternative to more student flats is often cited. Unfortunately current market forces dictate this is often not an option. The older properties throughout the city - many Victorian or Edwardian - which have historically housed large numbers of students could convert back to family homes. Private landlords of these properties undertake just enough maintenance to get by year by year, and more recently students have begun to realise that cold, draughty accommodation with large energy bills is not desirable, preferring something more similar to the home environment they have left.
Our practice is undertaking a number of Student residences projects throughout the city, and the key component to a good design is about successful integration. The inner city communities who are most affected by purpose-build student housing need to be assured that all is being done to protect their amenity. Ensuring that residents and students can coexist is really important. Issues such as parking, refuse, noise are clearly just as important as the avoidance of dominating blocks of accommodation which are out of scale with their surroundings.
Our Bonhay Road scheme opposite St Davids Station has a very different design solution to our scheme in Well Street, St James. Bonhay Road is much more grand in nature due to it's location at a gateway to Exeter, opposite the railway station. Well Street in comparison takes great care not to have an overbearing presence on the surrounding residential properties. Other student schemes we are currently looking at include Paris Street & Longbrook Street. These individual sites will be subject to a detailed analysis of how we might successfully integrate residences with the established communities in these areas.