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!
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.