A narrowly-approved planning application for student housing has turned the spotlight on to potential similar developments.
Despite heated resistance by residents, the development of a fully-managed student accommodation block in Fishbourne Road East, Chichester, comprising 134 student bed spaces across two purpose-built blocks, had the support of the university and squeaked through on June 17. Future ideas include a purpose-built 63-room accommodation block on Terminus Road, Chichester, plus a new landscaped campus incorporating 521 student housing units at the former Portfield Depot and UMA House at Shopwyke Road, a brownfield site owned by construction agency Osborne.
Kate Woods, Osborne’s head of group communications, cited 26 per cent growth in the past four years from UK students from outside the South East region.
Ms Woods said that current figures showed a ratio of 2.6 to 1 for every student bed, ‘way above the average of 2.1 to 1’, meaning that the Chichester market was under-supplied, with a particular shortage for second and third year returners. Osborne held a public exhibition on April 13, which she said identified that the proposed development would take the pressure off housing and help manage and relieve affordable housing’s availability for others.
She said: “Local residents also welcome it.”
Both sites require formal planning applications as they do not have consent for use as student accommodation.
Although applications have not been made for either spot, a question mark has already been raised about the Shopwyke Road site as it lies in Flood Zone 2 – meaning flooding is more likely.
Ms Woods said that the site had never flooded, ‘not even in the floods of 1993-94’.
“With this knowledge and the installation of the River Lavant flood alleviation scheme, along with the proposals we have put forward, the Environment Agency are satisfied that flood risks can be mitigated.”
The decision to agree the Fishbourne Road East site was triggered in part by data in the Local Plan, which states student numbers grew by 14 per cent in 2008-2011.
Given the research is already five years old, a Local Plan Review is scheduled to be adopted by 2019.
CDC said that work on this will include discussing student numbers and the need for more purpose-built student accommodation with the university and college, in terms of meeting existing needs and any planned growth.
“Regardless of possibly changing student numbers, the council believes that students have a very important part to play in the life of the community and are essential to the district’s success and prosperity.”
According to Chichester University, the student body across Chichester and Bognor Regis for 2015-16 is 5,250; of these, 247 are international or EU students, with a ratio of 4,515 undergraduates to 735 postgraduates.
The university has capacity for 1,165 in its halls of residence, split across Chichester and Bognor Regis and costing £3,500 to £5,000 per annum.
A university spokesperson said: “We remain supportive of the development of well-designed, well-managed and affordable student accommodation in both Chichester and Bognor Regis, particularly where it can reduce the pressure on the local rental market by offering alternative purpose-built shared living accommodation for second and third year students.”
MyStudentLet is the area’s only letting agency dedicated to student and multi-occupancy lets, with circa 60 properties across Chichester and Bognor Regis.
Managing director Catherine Faircloth said that, while halls are a good option for first-years, other years and postgraduates prefer to live off-campus with friends.
Ms Faircloth said: “It’s also a lot cheaper – we range from £350 to just over £400 a month.”
She said demand was not as ‘huge’ as in previous years.
“Ten years ago, there was a real shortfall but today, it’s on an even keel – there are a lot more buy-to-let landlords out there and students have more choice.”
Interest in Chichester properties comes from Bognor Regis students, as well as those studying in Chichester.
“Students’ standards and expectations have also risen in the past three to five years, largely due to the introduction of the Accreditation scheme.
And, if parents are paying the rent, ‘they want their son or daughter to be in the best accommodation available’.
If managed well, additional student accommodation would provide a good service to students and offer another alternative. “It’s a brilliant opportunity, but it may affect the demand for student housing and therefore residential landlords; equally, it will affect students if we see a decline in the essential service landlords provide.”