Devon hotel users plead for it to be spared demolition

The Devoncourt Hotel in Exmouth. Plans have been submitted to demolish it and replace the building with 81 homes and another hotel
The Devoncourt Hotel in Exmouth -Credit:Google Street View

Exmouth residents are uniting in a last-ditch attempt to try to stop plans to demolish Devoncourt Hotel and replace it with a combination of apartments and a hotel. The latest planning application for the site in Douglas Avenue is seeking to build 66 homes, of which 51 will be made available on the open market and 15 will be affordable.

The plans, submitted to East Devon District Council, also include a new smaller 65 bed hotel with access via Maer Road car park and its own car park. Vehicular access for the proposed apartments will remain off Douglas Avenue.

The apartments will be on the north and south side of the site, and the hotel behind Maer Lane car park. Local residents have already made their feelings clearly well-known with 180 objections already submitted and just three in favour of the proposals.

Read next:

Concerns include parking, vehicle access, its scale and design, the loss of a popular hotel and its leisure amenities, its sustainability and environmental impact, the sewage infrastructure and impact on the local neighbourhood as well as the town.

The revised application, submitted by Azim Lalani, was discussed by planners in April. It had been recommended for approval but after a heated debate lasting more than two-and-a-half hours, it was decided the planning committee would visit the site to help them make a decision at the next meeting being held tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21.

The existing Devoncourt Hotel site in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture
The existing Devoncourt Hotel site in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture

It has been recommended for approval subject to conditions. In its summary, the planning report states: "Concerns raised regarding the design and layout of the development have been considered, however, officers find the design and layout to be acceptable as well as impacts on ecology (with mitigation and compensation measures included in the Ecological Impact Assessment), trees, highway safety and drainage (subject to conditions).

"While there would undoubtedly be impacts on the surroundings during the construction period and when first built, it is considered that the design and massing of the building, which have been significantly improved through collaborative working with the applicant’s agent and the resulting development, would assimilate well into its surroundings.

"Overall, the benefits of the proposal are considered to demonstrably outweigh the harm and therefore the proposal is recommended for approval subject to conditions to mitigate certain impacts of the proposal."

The north block apartment proposed on part of the Devoncourt Hotel site in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture
The north block apartment proposed on part of the Devoncourt Hotel site in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture

The Devoncourt was generally considered to be Exmouth's finest hotel before it began offering 25-year timeshare rooms in the 1980s. At the April meeting, Malcolm Gigg, the agent for the applicant, said the scheme would benefit the area by providing 'much-needed accommodation' from both the residential and hotel perspective.

He said the extent of the work needed to retain the existing building was 'unachievable'. He added that while the hotel had tried to modernise its business model, moving away from timeshares towards regular hotel stays, to stay price competitive meant charging fees that didn't fully reflect the cost of cleaning and heating some of the sizeable rooms.

"In some cases, a single occupancy room fee is being applied to an entire apartment," he said. "The hotel offering now is old and poor, and the proposal is for a new, enhanced hotel offering for Exmouth."

The site plan for the Devoncourt Hotel in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture
The site plan for the Devoncourt Hotel in Exmouth -Credit:Ara Architecture

However, many local residents are not in agreement. In a submitted objection, one resident said: "I object to the thoughts that planning take no notice of what is going on with all of said people who object to a monstrosity that no one wants, when we already have a hotel that everyone loves to visit on a daily basis. Who in their right mind planned a carbuncle of this magnitude only to destroy a hotel that has great views of Exmouth and good facilities for all to enjoy, two swimming pools and beautifully kept gardens?

"What a waste, so please wake up as to what you are destroying here now. Throw these plans in the bin where they belong.

"The residents who live all around the area object to these plans and also all who use the hotel for the facilities don't want what you want, so as I said get your heads out of the sand and scrap the idea completely as it's not needed."

The proposed site view from the south if Devoncourt Hotel is demolished -Credit:Ara Architecture
The proposed site view from the south if Devoncourt Hotel is demolished -Credit:Ara Architecture

Another said: "As a long-term resident of Exmouth and a user of The Devoncourt Hotel on a regular basis, I find it beyond belief that there is a re-planning application submitted to demolish this excellent hotel. I've enjoyed the beautiful gardens, swimming pool and restaurant, also to mention, as a keen golfer, the putting green my family and I used after our afternoon tea.

"To learn that the new proposed development is to include four, four story apartment blocks and the fine current hotel demolished and replaced with a smaller hotel seems way over the top of common sense. Surely, this is totally unnecessary due to the fact that the current Devencourt hotel could be refurbished up to a modern standard and also at much lower building cost."

To view the planning application, click here.