Residents group Exeter's St James Forum has issued judicial review proceedings against Exeter City Council in a dispute over ‘studentification’.
It opposes construction of a 320-bed student development near the St James Park football ground, which it argues is a breach of an agreed neighbourhood plan, which sought to change the balance of the locality by resisting the spread of student accommodation.
The neighbourhood plan was approved by a planning inspector and won the support of 92% of residents in a 2013 referendum, the forum said.
It was then adopted by the city council and became part of Exeter’s local development plan.
The Forum argues that the neighbourhood plan should “carry considerable weight” in any planning application in the St James area, as in April planning minster Brandon Lewis said in a letter to local MP Ben Bradshaw: “Where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that had been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted.”
It asked the minister to call in the planning application, which forms part of Exeter City Football Club’s regeneration around its St James Park ground, in March but he declined to interfere with the council’s judgement on the matter.
A statement by the forum said it had been “left with little choice, other than on one hand to concede that the neighbourhood plan was a worthless document in so far as consideration of community balance was concerned or on the other hand stand up for the plan and the residents of St James”.
Exeter City Football Club said it was “bitterly disappointed” by the forum’s legal challenge.
Club chair Julian Tagg said: “Our efforts to work with the forum and find a compromise have been thrown back in our face by what appears to be a minority of individuals who, rather than engage in sensible and amicable discussion seem to be hell–bent on having a confrontation with the city council with the future of the football club as potential collateral damage.”