Student homes ‘could become worthless’
Too much purpose-built student accommodation is going up in Canterbury, a prominent councillor has warned.
Cllr Steve Williams fears that if the properties become unused because there is a drop in demand for higher education in the future, they cannot easily be adapted for other purposes.
The Conservative councillor argues that more family homes are needed. He spoke out after architect Guy Hollaway revealed plans for 150-room student accommodation on the ring road at Rhodaus Town.
Cllr Williams told the Gazette: “Many people I speak to are understandably concerned that these brownfield sites near to them are being filled with purpose-built student accommodation.
“Many of the proposed new buildings sit in or around residential areas, have no amenity value to the wider community and cannot transition easily to different types of owners.
“There are many medium-term trends that cloud accurate forecasts for demand of these pur- pose-built blocks. It is entirely feasible, given the rapid domestic growth in higher education numbers over the last 20 years that there might be a decline in demand for student places going forwards, particularly as more young people may be attracted to apprenticeships.
“Then, as is being witnessed presently, there is a reduction in overseas student applications, many of these rooms may stay empty as small single let dwellings with shared amenities have little appeal to a family or professional.”
In addition to the Rhodaus Town development there are proposals to build student accommodation in Havelock Street, Cossington Road, on the Old Dairy Crest site in Military Road and on the site in St Peter’s Street which will become available when Barretts moves to Broad Oak Road. Cllr Williams says that if the developments are ultimately not used then they will become “worthless to the community”.
He said: “There will then be the arduous process of completely reconfiguring the layout, or in all likelihood knocking the whole thing down to start again.
“While there is some support for the principle of purpose-built and responsibly-run student accommodation by universities themselves, most of the blocks being considered are not built or affiliated with the universities and in turn have little connection with and responsibility to, the local community.
“Canterbury needs to be careful that it is not sleep-walking into an array of student accommodation blocks sitting in prime locations close to the centre that are not filled because while the financial burden of halls not being occupied might be on the investment companies, the real loss in value will be to our great city and its inhabitants.”
An artist’s impression of student development in Rhodaus Town, Canterbury
Cllr Steve Williams
Architect Guy Hollaway