Stu­dent homes ‘could be­come worth­less’

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Spotlight On Housing - By Alex Clar­idge aclar­idge@thek­m­group.co.uk @clar­idgealex

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.”

Pic­ture: Guy Holl­away Ar­chi­tects

An artist’s im­pres­sion of stu­dent devel­op­ment in Rho­daus Town, Can­ter­bury

Cllr Steve Wil­liams

Ar­chi­tect Guy Holl­away

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