It’s obvious why student flats are being built

Student flats are to be built on the Barretts site

The Local Plan does a great many things to help steer the future of Canterbury district.

Identifying sustainable and suitable places for development, for the building of thousands of homes, is perhaps the thing most of us are familiar with.

These aren’t just five-bedroom executive homes few already living here can afford. These are houses for everyone, including owned, part-owned, privately rented, “affordable” and social.

Let me tell you what the Local Plan doesn’t do, contrary to the messages repeatedly coming from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

It does not require every developer in the city of Canterbury to build purpose built student accommodation!

How the proposed student block on the Barretts site will look

Sure, it doesn’t stop them – and with Canterbury’s massive student population it would be mad to prevent any at all.

But the Local Plan is not solely responsible for Palamon Court, Kingsmead or even the just-approved development at the Barretts Jaguar site.

So why, if there’s a supposed huge glut of purpose built student accommodation in the city, has Barretts managing director Paul Barrett decided to develop the site next to the Westgate Towers not as housing, not a hotel, nor a new leisure complex, but more student digs?

Money. There’s money in it. More money than anything else.

And that means people still want it. Whether it’s targeting domestic students or the more lucrative international ones, there’s a strong belief that this will be very profitable and there’s no doubt that there’s evidence for this.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with seeking the best return on a site to enable a business like Barretts Jaguar to move to a more suitable site and continue employing and generating wealth in our district.

Many wished that a man of such prominence in Canterbury like Mr Barrett, a Freeman of the City, might have been able to provide something more visionary in a location so important to us all.

But until provision of good quality purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) in Canterbury truly meets demand, we will continue to see owners of land developing it as such.

For what it’s worth, I think we’re nearing the end of new PBSA applications. I then look forward to a future of student houses of multiple occupancy reverting to owned or private-rented family homes as a result.

Ben Fitter-Harding is a Conservative councillor for Blean Forest and is the chairman of the council’s property and regeneration committee.


  1. I’m in my 40s and disabled. There is NOWHERE for me to live! I can’t live in a shared student house as I’m too old and not a student. I can’t afford my own flat. I can’t do a house share due to my special needs. Why don’t they build some flats suitable for disabled people under 65? Ground floor etc? Maybe cheaper like they have for pensioners, or for people on disability benefits who happen to be single? It really is very difficult indeed to live here and be in my circumstances.

    • I totally sympathise with your comments. There is so little being done for people with disabilities and homeless single people who all deserve a roof over their heads. These are basic human needs.

  2. All about the money…Barretts…join the queue with the rest of them….what will this lot be remembered for in history?

  3. What an utterly patronising article. And sadly typical of the contempt that most local Tories hold the general public. I expected better from Ben, who’s pretty reasonable on a range of other issues. But the tone here is completely wrong. As for the ‘local plan’, not much use in it’s current state as has been covered extensively elsewhere.

  4. For years, from its inception in 1948 until 2010 the planning system made no distinction between a family home and a “house in multiple occupation”, (HMO) and that includes student lets; the result was that in Canterbury, as in other University Cities houses got converted to accommodate students as renting to students was more profitable than renting or selling to others. The City Council took the view that if it encouraged proper students blocks that would result in students not occupying family homes as HMO; good idea but two flaws have come to light.

    Firstly as fast as the Council is encouraging new purpose built student accommodation, all Governments starting with Tony Blair’s Labour government have encouraged Universities to expand and take in more students, and there is nothing the Council can do about that but it has blown a hole in Council planning.

    Secondly the Council sees managed student accommodation in the City centre as a good thing because it cuts down on late night home-going through residential areas, causing noise and disturbance and secondly managed accommodation is likely to be less of a problem to neighbours: so far so good, but… not all students want to be “managed”, many prefer the freedom and independence of living in shared houses, HMO where their behaviour is not controlled.

    There are only two ways the situation will end, if the number of units built exceeds the demand and they do not get let, or if the number of students drops and we abandon the ridiculous 50% target.

  5. With every available room of a small terraced house turned into a bedroom – what landlord of such an HMO is going to give up this excessive combined rent to let it to a family at a rent it could afford? This idea of HMOs reverting to family houses is not where the money is either Ben – any more than building affordable accommodation is. And who will be doing the re-converstion – that is taking down all the plywood that partitions some rooms into two rooms for even more rent etc etc? These small houses have been ruined for life. You guys live on another planet. At best the houses will provide shared accommodation for single working people or refugees.


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