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New Student Halls Look Better But...


  After reluctantly approving the 591 student bed development in Arundel Street in August, Portsmouth councillors are now being asked to approve a further 59 bed development in Staunton Street. The good news is that this new development is wholly comprised of standalone 'bedsit' studio apartments, ranging from 28-34 sq metres – so if student demand is insufficient, these units will be perfect for the homeless and most vulnerable that the Council is working so hard to get into appropriate housing in an area already densely occupied with similar residents (as we all know that PCC's definition of 'Mixed and Balanced Communities' typically means everyone in the street having the same tenure as everyone else).

What does it look like? 

Obviously the rooms in this 'H' shaped block, running from 1 to 5 storeys high are much smaller than the 38 sq metre minimum size guidance in UK planning regulations, but as we all know, student halls get an exemption so developers can pack them in much more densely. Also, with each 'studio' being separate, there will be no Council Tax to pay for the 10 months of the year when students are in residence

Whilst this development will improve the local area, being behind Wingfield House in the council estate on the edge of Landport and Buckland, it is a low budget development with no consideration for minimising the impact on the environment or ongoing energy efficiency during operation.

The architects would argue this last point, stating, "The proposed accommodation includes high performance heat recovery and mechanical ventilation. This will provide the necessary extraction linked to all wet areas such as bathrooms via a central fan. A temperature sensing control device activates the extract fan forming part of a balanced ventilation system. The system will ensure the highest level of indoor air quality with the lowest level of occupier interaction. Double glazed aluminium windows are designed to insulate the building against external noise whilst each study room includes a whole house mechanical ventilation system." (I think that actually suggests that each bathroom will have the legally required extractor but they reduce costs by just using one fan for all rooms).

The developers also avoid any need to provide affordable housing on the grounds that "the accommodation is only to be occupied by full time students"  and also often avoid CIL payments on similar grounds.

It will be interesting once approved and complete, what impact this additional accommodation and that in Arundel Street has on the exorbitant prices currently charged for student hall accommodation - will it start to bring it down to match the much lower prices offered by the more comfortable and spacious HMO accommodation in the city, or will these providers simply go bust and leave us with empty halls or ones that need to be sold at a discount to the council as happened in Elm Grove and with the Registry. Either way, it is good for landlords as it will increase the average rent in the city and that has an inflationary effect on all rents across the city. Conversely, it will make life even harder for the most vulnerable tenants and those least able to afford higher rents.

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