Skip to main content

Restoration plans unveiled for Royal Clarence

By December 1, 2021Property

Plans to restore Exeter’s iconic Royal Clarence building and bring life back to this much-loved historic landmark in the heart of the city are being unveiled today.

The Grade II listed Royal Clarence, which occupies an important site facing Exeter Cathedral, was devastated by a fire in 2016.

Proposals to sensitively restore the 18th century building and enhance its setting in Cathedral Yard have been prepared by leading property developer Akkeron Group, on behalf of South West Lifestyle Brands, which acquired the site in August 2020.

The plans, which include creating high quality restaurant and bar space to make the building publicly accessible, are the result of more than 12 months of detailed consultation with conservation architects, heritage consultants, Historic England and Exeter City Council.

The £17million scheme is firmly focused on restoring the historic building to its former glory by reconstructing the original façade and exterior, and retaining as much of the building’s history as possible.

The new Royal Clarence would feature a collection of 23 luxury apartments with a mix of two and three-bed apartments located on the upper four storeys, including three duplex apartments over two floors. The ground floor would be fully accessible to visitors with a large restaurant, a bar to replace the Well House Pub and two function rooms.

One of the function rooms will offer visitors a chance to see some of the building’s unique historic fabric exposed by the fire, with an inner courtyard featuring the surviving brick spine walls, which will be stabilised, and a newly exposed Roman wall, lit by natural daylight. The new apartments would retain as much heritage as possible and have been designed to showcase historical features.

A public consultation on the proposals is being launched today (1st December) featuring an interactive website at where people can view detailed plans in a Virtual Exhibition and leave any feedback, as well as submit questions for the project team.

A two-day public exhibition is being held in the HG Wells Room at The Mount, 72 Paris Street, Exeter, EX1 2JY from 10am until 4pm on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th December for people to view the proposals, hear more about the scheme, ask questions of the project team in person and share their thoughts.

Feedback from the community consultation, which runs until 22nd December, will help to inform the proposals before a full planning application and an application for Listed building consent are submitted to Exeter City Council in early 2022.

James Brent, Akkeron Chairman, said: “We are delighted to share our plans to breathe new life into the historic and much-loved Royal Clarence building in Exeter, which the city is eager to see restored after five years of it sitting derelict following the terrible fire in 2016.

“Our proposals envisage the Royal Clarence being carefully restored to become a focal point in the heart of Exeter’s Cathedral Yard, with a publicly accessible ground floor offering high quality restaurant and bar space.

“We are also focused on retaining as much of the building’s historic fabric as possible, restoring the famous façade to its former glory, so the Royal Clarence will look much as it previously did before the fire, and form a pivotal point in the centre of Exeter, as an asset for the city to be proud of, and a legacy for future generations.

“Our proposals have been prepared with huge respect for this building, its location and the special place it holds in the city. I would thank Historic England and Exeter City Council for their guidance over many months.”

The Royal Clarence was of historical significance with the main building dating back to 1769, and contains several structures which date back to medieval times and have had a variety of uses.

Much of the building was lost after a fire in neighbouring premises on 28th October 2016 spread to the hotel, and a substantial amount of the remaining part was later demolished.

The then owners obtained planning permission in 2017 to create a new hotel, including an additional upper storey, but work did not progress and in August 2020, the site was sold to South West Lifestyle Brands.

The consented replacement hotel development was found to be significantly unviable, with a forecast loss of c.£17million, further impacted by the recent introduction of a new 5 star hotel a few hundred yards away.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this position, and the historic nature of the building, coupled with the considerable damage caused by the fire, means its restoration will be an especially complex project, architecturally, technically and commercially.

The Royal Clarence scheme proposed by Akkeron represents a major investment in Exeter city centre and its destination offer, while the creation of residential units would further increase vibrancy in the city centre, bolstered by other recent residential conversions completed in Cathedral Yard.

Direct economic benefits include the creation of 180 full time jobs in Exeter during the construction phase, as well as 44 full time jobs in commercial activity once the scheme completes.

Akkeron plan to engage with Building Greater Exeter, Exeter University, Exeter College and local secondary schools to offer skills development opportunities.

The project team behind the Royal Clarence scheme is led by Exeter-based architects KTA and includes a number of partner organisations also based in Exeter and therefore well aware of the importance of the site to the city.

Comments and feedback on the proposals are welcomed from local people, businesses and community groups, and can be shared via the Feedback Form survey available on the consultation website at or by attending the public exhibition in Exeter on 7th and 8th December at The Mount at 72 Paris Street, Exeter.