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Planner admits Cardiff has glut of student flats.

Byline: MATT DISCOMBE Reporter matt.discombe@walesonline.co.uk

APLANNING official in Cardiff has warned that too many student flats may have been built in the city.

The warning that the city could already have passed the "peak point" in the boom came as a decision was made to allow a student block to be converted into serviced apartments.

Proposals for thousands more student flats in the city are still in the planning process, with hundreds under construction and several other major developments waiting to get the go-ahead.

But the city's planning committee heard on Wednesday that many of those already built are struggling to fill their rooms.

A council planning official said Cardiff may now have an oversupply of student accommodation - and that more change of use applications for student developments could be on the way.

He added: "Most of the student accommodation we've approved over the last five years or so have tended to be much larger student schemes, somewhere between 200 and 500 rooms, which have been able to offer extensive community accommodation within the scheme, a better standard generally of accommodation - so smaller schemes have really suffered in terms of demand compared to some of the bigger schemes.

"There's some anecdotal evidence out there now that some of the bigger schemes are also suffering and also having difficulties reaching 100% occupancy.

"We're very aware as a planning authority that we have approved a large number of student housing developments.

"We have no policy or guidance which would lead us to do anything other than approve them, provided they are well-designed and are located close to universities on sustainable transport routes.

"We may have reached a situation where we've gone beyond that peak student housing point, but I don't know and until we start getting applications for changes of use, it's anecdotal."

He was speaking as a bid to convert 34 flats at Park Lane Student Living, near Cathays Park, into serviced apartments for tourists was approved.

It comes after occupancy rates at the development fell dramatically to just 65% in the 2017-18 academic year - down from 94% just a year before.

Committee member Councillor Wendy Congreve, who voted against the application, labelled the plans as "cynical".

She said: "It's a cynical use of the planning process. It's nothing less than a commercial development through the back door and must be resisted.

"We developed too many of this type of accommodation, and surprise, surprise, they are now being turned into commercial, lucrative developments.

"This is the thin edge of the wedge which is likely to continue."

Hundreds of purpose-built student accommodation units in Cardiff have either opened or been planned in recent years.

They include the Capital Quarter development of 674 student flats, which is currently being built, 711 rooms at a 10-storey block planned at the former Evans Halshaw Citroen, and a further 1,000 beds at Howard Gardens and Bradley Court.

The planning committee heard that applications should be judged on their own merits and that the council - as a planning authority - is led by the market.

Councillor Chris Lay said: "Student accommodation unfortunately has not worked at this place. I would rather see it as an apart-hotel than an empty disused building.

"Hopefully it will help us bring in more people."

The new apartments would be for short-term stays of two nights or more, offering facilities much like a traditional hotel, developer A Space In the City has said.

The company said in its planning application: "With the continued growth of large student accommodation developments within the market, combined with a reduction in applications from students, the ongoing occupancy decline is a concern.

"We believe the variety of accommodation offering will be attractive to the city region and will support to win business for the city and ensure Cardiff remains a must-see city for tourists."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 21, 2018
Words:647
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