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Planning matters

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Bedspace: a framework used to assess the need for Purpose Built Student Accommodation
Most university locations across the UK have seen an influx of Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). In response many Local Planning Authorities now require developers to demonstrate the need for this development. How can Bedspace help? Bedspace strengthens the justification for PBSA by:  Presenting evidence led quantitative analysis of current and past trends in student growth and student accommodation preferences; Analysing the supply pipeline as well as the potential future capacity for further PBSA, cognisant of both past trends and of university growth ambitions; Detailing the potential economic impacts generated during construction of the development and after its completion; and Presenting this assessment in a planning application document which has proven track record with Local Authorities. Who is it for? PBSA Developers: Demonstrating the need for PBSA in a given University location or informing early investment decisions; Local Planning Authorities: Understanding student accommodation needs in their area and providing robust evidence for emerging development plans; and Higher Education Institutions: Understanding the mix of student accommodation in their area and informing expansion of their accommodation offer. Bedspace features two examples of student base data in local authorities, one of which is Oxford City Council (OCC). The need to deliver general housing, whilst ensuring student accommodation is provided for during the plan period, is acutely relevant to OCC, and thus presented an interesting case study. It has been identified that in the catchment area of Oxford City there are 32,295 students, split between its two universities; Oxford University (19,265) and Oxford Brookes University (13,035)[1]. If the city’s student population was to increase in line with past growth rates over the last 10 years, there could be an additional 965 students by 2025. Unsurprisingly, our evidence also shows that in Oxford, university halls of residence are the preferred accommodation type (over 50%). With 25% of students living in private rented accommodation, private sector halls represent only a very small fraction of the share (3%). The Council’s recently adopted Local Plan (June 2020) recognises that the success of Oxford’s economy is shaped by the presence of its two universities. The Local Plan identifies that provision of good quality, well managed student accommodation will continue to be required in Oxford. However, this type of land use often competes with sites for general housing. The Local Plan therefore places restrictions on the locations suitable for student accommodation and limits its occupancy to students at one of the two universities on academic courses of over a year. OCC’s approach has been to include a threshold cap for both universities within the Local Plan. This restricts the number of students permitted to live outside the university provided accommodation. Furthermore, in the OCC area, the growth, redevelopment or refurbishment of education floorspace is linked to student accommodation provision (i.e. the provision of accommodation must be in step with the expansion of student places). The above, coupled with the requirement to provide an affordable housing contribution on student accommodation schemes (25 or more students/10 or more self-contained units), as well as payment of CIL (which is applicable to both education and student accommodation floorspace in the OCC area), presents a challenging situation for PBSA. However, the unique nature of OCC’s threshold strategy for the universities is long established. The Local Plan Inspector noted in its Examination Report (May 2020[2]) that “…..the threshold system has been tried and tested in Oxford in previous plans and is a workable means of balancing the housing needs of the very large student population against the city’s many other housing needs and land uses. It is also a system that, subject to the specific threshold numbers, has been developed by consensus.” Given the importance of the universities within the area, supply for student accommodation needs to be met to ensure growth of these important institutions can continue. The Local Plan’s aim is to balance support for the two universities while continuing the prioritisation of general housing. This difficult balancing act is applicable to local authorities across the UK. Clearly PBSA is one of many competing land uses that Local Authorities have to contend with when seeking to meet its housing requirements. The shortage of appropriate sites within the city is a factor in land supply for housing. For example, Oxford has a rich history with large swathes of the city core within or adjacent to Conservation Areas, many listed buildings and other heritage assets. This is common across several of the UK’s university towns and cities. By nature, student accommodation would ideally be located in areas accessible to the city centre as opposed to outer suburbs, which may be more suitable for general housing provision. If students living within private rented accommodation could be housed in PBSA, private housing could be released back into the general rental market. The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG[3]) confirms that all student accommodation can in principle count towards contributing to an authority’s housing land supply based on: the amount of accommodation that new student housing releases in the wider housing market (by allowing existing properties to return to general residential use); and / or the extent to which it allows general market housing to remain in such use, rather than being converted for use as student accommodation. PBSA development could go some way to assist with these challenges, allowing institutions to focus investment in teaching facilities and the “student experience” rather than provision of accommodation. New PBSA development presents a fresh opportunity in terms of the way it can be used, which will be increasingly important in an uncertain market (See Arwel Evans' blog). This flexibility could help with other competing land uses, not just for general housing sites. For example, PBSA space can be rented on a short-term basis to visitors outside of term time, helping to address a shortage of visitor accommodation. Bedspace can help navigate some of the current uncertainty in the market and provide a robust evidence led argument, helping to guide investment decisions to where PBSA is most needed. Please do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss further. [1] HESA Student Record 2018/19 (figures do not sum due to rounding)[2][3] Paragraph: 034 Reference ID: 68-034-20190722


Proposed Changes to Student Housing Policy at Glasgow City Council: What you need to know
“The potential benefits of purpose built student accommodation must be balanced against any negative impacts arising from significant concentrations that might be harmful to the sustainability of residential communities.” -  SG10: Meeting Housing Needs, Paragraph 2.6 Glasgow is Scotland's largest city and is recognised by students for its vibrant nightlife. The city is home to 5 universities, University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as well as number colleges. The University of Glasgow is currently rated 11th in the UK[1] and with living costs approximately 35% cheaper than London[2] it’s a highly desirable location. Glasgow is home to approximately 130,000 students[3], with the 3 major university’s University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University attracting 28,000, 22,000 and 20,000 students respectively each year[4]. In February 2019, the Council consulted with students, student housing providers, universities, elected members and community councils on the City’s student accommodation. They have now drafted a revision to Section 2: Student Accommodation of their Supplementary Guidance 10 document (SG10: Meeting Housing Needs).  Consultation on this revision is running until 22nd January 2021. This is within a backdrop of predictions that Glasgow’s student accommodation will continue to increase. The new guidance, if approved, could see new developments for student accommodation in parts of the city restricted. Whilst student accommodation is recognised in essence as residential, it is sui generis in planning terms as there are fundamental differences between traditional residential properties and student accommodation. The council is concerned that the over concentration of student accommodation in certain locations could be harmful to existing residents.   South Partick, Yorkhill and Townhead are all areas of the city in which Glasgow City Council recognise there has been substantial student development and any further development could undermine residential amenity. Therefore, if the policy is approved, further develop in these locations is unlikely to be supported by the council. The current adopted City Plan does not provide specific policy relating to student housing but it does state that the Council will in general support purpose-built student accommodation which achieves a high standard of amenity and an appropriate range of accommodation, and is adjacent to main campuses or in locations with good public transport and active travel connections. The proposed supplementary guidance provides city-wide criteria that all future developments will be assessed against: Will not undermine character and amenity Will not place unsustainable pressure on local amenities and facilities Access to shops, services, healthcare, leisure and community facilities Ground floor uses which are open to everyone Usable open space and enhanced public realm Design which respects the existing arrangements of properties in the area Flexible floor designs to allow for future adaption The applicant will also be required to: Prepare a statement of need to ensure proposals do not lead to an oversupply which could lead to under-performing or vacant accommodation, Prepare an analysis of the locality to demonstrate the relationship between the existing place and its capacity for student accommodation, and Adhere to minimum space standards for study bedrooms. This assessment criteria will most notably change the amount of analysis that will be required by applicants to justify their proposed development. In addition, there is also a greater push on mixed developments. Applications within the city centre and in Strategic Development Framework Areas will be expected to also provide mainstream housing on sites greater than 0.3 hectares as follows: Student housing providers with an interest in Glasgow should take note. Do you have a potential proposal for student housing in South Patrick, Yorkhill and Townhead? If you wish us to make a representation on your behalf to SG10: Meeting Housing Needs or if you are interested in student housing development in Glasgow, or elsewhere in Scotland, please get in touch with Lichfields.   [1] QS World University Rankings 2020 [2] Expatistan, December 2020 [3] Glasgow City Council, SG10: Meeting Housing Needs [4], August 2019Image credit: Adam Marikar via Unsplash