So student flats are not such moneyspinners after all

These former student houses at the end of Riverdale Road will become social housing

by Nick Eden-Green

I am, of course, delighted that the council is investing £23m in social housing to make a tiny dent in the number of people on our housing list.

For the last 30 odd years both governments have failed to allow councils to build more council housing so this is an expensive way round a problem that should have been tackled years ago.

But it highlights an utter failure in planning by the city council.

Over the last 15 years or so there have been around a dozen separate planning applications for building more and more student flats in the Parham Road area.

The serial applications were from private developers expecting to make a profit from student letting.

A kitchen inside the Parham Road flats

Personally I have no objection to Parham Road being a student village.

However, if this was the idea in the first place, then it should have been properly planned at the outset.

By this I mean, communal laundry and drying facilities, a central students union and social facility, an open area to kick a football or throw a frisbee, a gym, a pedestrian crossing over Sturry Road and so on.

None of this was done because members of the planning committee, of which I was one, were faced with a series of piecemeal planning applications and no idea of the eventual scheme to crowd hundreds of students into an unplanned ghetto. Put simply, there was no master plan.

Some 15 years on and more and more private developers are seeking to build more and more student flats.

In the last 12 months there have been applications for around 1,000 student flats at Pin Hill, Military Road, Kingsmead, St Peter’s Lane, Havelock Street and so on.

All of these sites could, and indeed should, have been for houses for local people. They are excellent urban brownfield sites.

However, our inadequate Local Plan has yet again allowed developers to attempt to maximise their profits by demanding more student flats.

The planning applications flood in. We know they should not be allowed, but we are powerless to stop them because the Local Plan is silent. This is one of the many reasons I voted against the Plan in the first place.

Student buildings in Parham Road will be converted into family homes

The real nonsense is that these privatised student flats are not wanted by students or the universities or our own residents either. There is such a growing surplus that many remain empty.

Now we have a situation where some of the student flats built by private developers on Parham Road appear not to be such a moneyspinner after all.

So they are selling them to be converted into houses!

Yes, some 10 years after they were built, the council will spend money on converting student flats into dwellings which should have been dwellings in the first place.

Perfectly good 10 year old buildings will be ripped apart and put back together wasting money that should have been spent more wisely at the outset.

These new social houses will be in the middle of a student ghetto with no play area for children. Is this really an ideal social mix for families who probably suffer from a variety of social needs?

Meanwhile, developers continue to build yet more private student accommodation across the city when what we all want is social housing for our residents. What a planning failure and what a waste of money.

Nick Eden-Green is a Liberal Democrat councillor representing Wincheap ward on Canterbury City Council and is a former Lord Mayor of Canterbury



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