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Student high-rise dubbed 'Cardiff 's ugliest building'.

Byline: NATHAN BEVAN Reporter nathan.bevan@walesonline.co.uk

NEW high-rise student accommodation in Cardiff has been called "the ugliest building" in the city - and there's also concern about how it is initially being used.

The 26-floor, 675-bedroom Zenith building on Herbert Street in Atlantic Wharf will boast everything from a private gym and cinema to a rooftop bar and wellness treatment room.

Yet, despite its promise of luxury living - and price tag above PS175 per week - it's been berated online for its drab exterior, with one commentator likening it more to something you'd have seen in 1980s Moscow than the Welsh capital in 2019.

It's also one of a myriad of similar developments, or purpose-built student accommodation, springing up around the Cardiff skyline, all of which are adding several thousand student beds to the area.

But the thing that's attracting the most criticism is Zenith's addition to an ongoing trend of student flats actually being turned into serviced apartments, primarily for short- to mediumterm corporate lets.

Indeed, its developers - Fusion Cardiff Capital Quarter LLP - recently successfully applied for permission from Cardiff Council to change Zenith's usage in that very way until the end of August 2020.

It's something that often occurs when student developments, particularly the larger schemes, fail to achieve 100% occupancy. Some, however, see it as exploiting a legal loophole in the planning process which doesn't require its developers to fund affordable housing elsewhere or contribute to community infrastructure levies.

Speaking about a similar example in September last year, planning committee member Wendy Congreve described such moves as "nothing less than a commercial development through the back door".

She said: "We've developed too many of this type of accommodation, and - surprise, surprise - they are now being turned into lucrative business developments. This is the thin edge of the wedge which is likely to continue."

Previously, Cardiff Council said it considered each application "on its merits".

In this instance, a spokesperson explained that the change of use - which will begin on September 1 - is a result of building work not being ready in time for the influx of students expected at the start of the new academic year.

"Then, once the building is finally ready, rather than have it empty until summer 2020, the developers will fill the rooms another way. Whether those rooms are finished in phases or floor by floor, I can't say," the spokesperson said. "Once that 12 months is over, though, the building has to revert to student use - no further extension will be possible."

We tried to contact Fusion Cardiff Capital Quarter LLP for a statement but were unsuccessful.

On the building's appearance, there has been criticism online.

"New ugliest building in Cardiff?" tweeted Lewis Beecham. "Not against development but the combination here of colour, cheap-looking cladding and lettering is awful. How does this stuff pass planning?" Others described it as resembling "a dated East European office block" and "Soviet architecture at its finest."

"I think it looks great... for Moscow 1980," joked Jon Beard.

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 19, 2019
Words:516
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