The increasing number of student housing in St David’ Neighbourhood area has been a concern for local residents who ask if the nature of the community in the Neighbourhood is now becoming unbalanced.
St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership committee has been asked to consider the issues involved and has put together this information for local residents, to give some more information about what’s involved.
The number of students attending universities has increased massively right across the world.
It is recognised that this can put considerable pressure on local neighbourhoods where private houses are let out to students and, in particular, where ‘developers’ and speculators get planning permission to put up large student blocks in residential areas.
Is this a problem? Yes if it causes neighbourhoods to become imbalanced or drives residents to move away, or if appropriate services and infrastructure are not provided alongside the developments, or if the developments/blocks are just plain ugly.
Recognising this issue, Exeter City Council commissioned Dr Darren Smith [Loughborough University], an expert on ‘studentification’, to produce a report. The Planning Department issued the report proposing that, to deal with the expected increase in student numbers , more student ‘blocks, would be needed [these blocks are called Purpose Built Student Accommodation or PBSA]. How would this work?
The increase from 2006, around the time that Point Exe in Bonhay Road was built, to 2030 is around 10,000. St David’s Neighbourhood, which already has a very high proportion of students living here, is not protected from this. The Council puts a limit on the ‘percentage’ of students living in houses in any one area [usually 20%] but it does not count the number of students living in PBSA in that percentage.
Students ‘desire’ to be near the main campus and therefore do not wish to ‘travel’ from wards further from the main campus. The clustering of students close to the main campus is illustrated in the Council’s map below:
Petition to Government:
Faced with the existing number and planned increase of students living in our respective neighbourhoods, St David’s and St James signed a petition to Government with the City of Chester and others and this was supported by Ben Bradshaw MP.
We also had a meeting with Ben Bradshaw who is now calling a meeting of all MPs from university cities to look at how the pressure on local people of high levels of student accommodation in their areas can be addressed.
There is also a major conference at Durham University, with the National Organisation of Residents’ Associations [NORA], on 20 July 2016 to look at the impact of studentification.
A key issue is that the development of blocks is by private developers (not universities) and is for ‘ investment’ purposes because they are able to charge high rents and achieve double-digit returns on their investment. This in turn creates a burden on students, particularly UK students, who are faced with these high rental costs.
St David’s Neighbourhood Partnership Committee is a member of the Joint Strategy Group with the university and is continuing to look into these issues.