Planning inspector overrules council on city student accommodation development

January 8, 2021

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s policy of limiting new student accommodation around the city has been dealt a blow after a planning inspector gave the go-ahead for a scheme on a former industrial site.

The council had refused permission for the development, pictured, on the Plumb Center site on Locksbrook Road in August 2019, claiming too many students were being concentrated in one area.

The decision by the Planning Inspectorate could now clear the way for other student accommodation schemes around the city as developers target one of the fastest-growing segments of the property market.

The 0.23 acre site is directly opposite Bath Spa University’s new Art and Design campus and two other purpose-built student flat schemes are nearby.

But planning inspector John Woolcock dismissed the council’s fears of an overconcentration of student accommodation in the area as “not convincing” and gave the green light for the new three-storey scheme of 52 student studio flats and 28 student en-suite rooms along with nearly 18,000 sq ft of light industrial space and a 4,000 sq ft gym. 

The council has long complained that the high concentration of student flats in some areas of the city are driving out families by limiting the amount of available accommodation. It argued that in the Locksbrook Road area one in seven of the houses had been converted for multiple occupation.

Mr Woolcock said it was hard to forecast what impact Covid-19 might have on student numbers but it was reasonable to assume demand would increase.

“Even if student numbers in Bath remain at the present level there is evidence of a substantial shortfall in available purpose-built student bed spaces and a heavy reliance on the private rented sector,” he said.

The developer behind the scheme – London-based Summix Capital – claimed it would free-up 20 homes in the private rented sector. 

Summix Capital development director Stuart Black said: “We’re delighted our proposals to redevelop the Plumb Center site have been approved by the Planning Inspectorate.

“Our plans will regenerate this industrial site in the city by increasing employment provision and delivering much-needed student accommodation in a highly sustainable location.

“The delivery of new purpose-built student accommodation will help meet an identified need in the city and act as a catalyst for further regeneration during this challenging economic climate.”

The scheme will also provide a new home for the Genesis Lifestyle Centre gym on the current site.

Co-founder Philippa Spruit said:  “We are delighted that the application has been approved and are looking forward to a new purpose-built home for Genesis. 

“We have been trading on the site for 24 years and feel that this development will secure the next chapter of our future.

“The new gym with a slightly increased capacity, enables us to better serve the local residents, whilst really importantly, retaining the relaxed family feel that we have strived to create.”

Summix, which has specialised in development and regeneration projects across the UK and Ireland since its launched in 2006, has a number of major schemes in and around Bath.

It says its vision for regeneration involves taking on the most-challenging sites, ranging from vacant possession to dormant, dilapidated structures, and developing a viable plan for their redevelopment and repurposing.   

Among its schemes near Bath are the 123-acre Rawlings Green development on the eastern boundary of Chippenham, where it plans 650 homes, shops and a primary school, a 20-acre site on the northern edge of Trowbridge, where it wants to build 210 homes, the 13-acre former Royal Navy Copenacre test site near Corsham, where it plans 40 homes, and an 81-home development on former MoD land at Neston, near Corsham.

It has also developed a number of student accommodation schemes in Bristol, with more in the pipeline.


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