14/12/2011

Northgate student housing application rejected

A planning application to turn the former government buildings in Northgate Street, Aberystwyth into student housing was rejected by 14 votes to 6 by Ceredigion Council's Development Control Committee today.

The committee rejected the application by Cantref Housing Association on the grounds that it was incompatible with the high number of elderly residents in the narrow streets around the building and because it would remove a potential employment site close to the town centre. Many local residents had objected. The building was partially occupied by a government passport office until four months ago.

Aberystwyth University had surprised some by not backing the scheme, despite the current student housing crisis. Instead, they aim to solve the crisis within two years by building environmentally-friendly accommodation for 1000 students next to the existing Pentre Jane Morgan student village at the top of Penglais Hill, where they say their accommodation can be better managed as a block.

In making the application, Cantref seemed to have moved from their core remit of providing housing for people on the local housing waiting list but without bringing the university on board with their plans. The University are hoping their application to extend Pentre Jane Morgan will be approved early in the new year.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Alun,

    Thanks for the update. I should say from the outset that I am not an apologist of closed buildings remaining closed and eventually becoming derelict, so I do take issue with the fact that this project was rejected.

    There is (was), on the one hand, the option of accepting the plan and working with the developer to improve or slightly modify the plan at later stages (this is possible under the provisions of the LGA) to ensure that desperately needed housing is made available to the local community.

    There is also the option of letting another empty building remain empty and closed for years until it falls into a state of disrepair where there will be no option but to knock it down.

    Yes, local people do need housing and so do students, and to actually differentiate between the two and potentially cause tension between these groups is very short-sighted of you. If there is sustainable investment locally, it will become easier to attract temporary residents to turn into permanent residents, thus boost local workforce employability, breadth and depth of job opportunity, increase local skill level and sustain local economic growth. That is the long term opportunity which the short-sighted Town and County Councils have failed to realise because of high dependence on the 'local' vote and failure to capture the other 45 per cent of the electorate due to stubbornness, ignorance or mere lack of interest in the community that make up local wards.

    I am sorry to rant, but I really wish people could see past May 2012.

    PD, (in a personal capacity)

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  2. There's a big leap between this planning application being rejected and the building being knocked down. It's only been empty for four months. I imagine there will be other ideas put forward.

    There's no question there has been a serious student housing crisis in the town, and it's right that that should be a part of the debate; but this application wouldn't have come on stream until the next academic year by which time the university hopes to have started work on its own new purpose-built accommodation on Penglais Hill. If approved (can't be assumed), that could ultimately leave sites that don't fit into its plans, like Northgate, redundant. That's the longer-term picture.

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  3. Very bad decision in my opinion, by councillors only looking after themselves.

    Do you know if Cantref plan to appeal?

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  4. Any applicant is entitled to appeal against a planning rejection (oddly, objectors aren't entitled to appeal against an approval). Don't know if they intend to.

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  5. If I remember rightly, the plan was to add an extra floor. This building already dominates Northgate Street. It is a rectangular box that stands out like a sore thumb in this location. I am pleased that further enlargement was turned down. I am disappointed that the permanent planning officials supported the application.

    There is a fall of 10% in Welsh student university applications for next year even though their fees have been capped by the Assembly.

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  6. Brilliant post and useful information…I think this is what I read somewhere…but I don’t know with your experience.student houses Leeds

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  7. I understand that this was a non-grant funded commercial venture by Cantref with the aim of funding their core activities.

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  8. Nice to see the council considering the neighbourhood with regards to whether student accommodation would fit there. Some councils just put it where ever they want!

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