Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Planners Urged to Stem the Flood of Student Flats

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Planners Urged to Stem the Flood of Student Flats

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Regional Affairs Reporter rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

ASHAKE-UP of planning policy for North East city centres is needed to stop them becoming focal points for student flats that deter businesses, it is said.

Liberal Democrats in Newcastle say the council could miss out on business rates if it continues to crowd the city with student accommodation as they call for more transparency and a rethink on the rules.

The group also accuses the council of a "stealth policy" of disposing of local authority land near St James' Park to make way for student flats.

Since 2008 around 11,000 new student homes have been created in the city to support a growing student population of some 48,000 at Newcastle University and Northumbria University. However, planners estimate some 19,000 new homes will be needed in Newcastle by 2030.

Lib Dem councillor David Slesenger said: "The council currently appears to be pursuing a stealth policy of disposing of council-owned land around St James Park for student blocks, potentially including very tall buildings, without public consultation on a masterplan or an assessment of the impact on the availability of sites for commercial offices.

"If sites are not available for companies seeking to invest in new jobs in the city centre, they will be forced to look to other cities or out of town business parks, and Newcastle will miss out on business rate income.

"The council owes it to the public to be open and transparent about its intentions."

He added: "Unless a more proactive approach is taken, every vacant site in the city centre risks being turned into student blocks and other economic uses will be forced out.

"We believe that it is now time for a city centre student housing planning policy based on estimates of the total number of bedspaces required, specifying suitable standards of design and support services, and identifying acceptable and unacceptable locations for this use. …

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