Inspector rejects 'ghetto' charge to approve Bristol student flats

A planning inspector has allowed a 345-bed student block in Bristol, rejecting claims that it would contribute to the creation of a "ghetto" of student accommodation.

Bristol student accommodation in Bristol approved. Image by Watkins Jones Group
Bristol student accommodation in Bristol approved. Image by Watkins Jones Group

An appeal decision by inspector Brendan Lyons overturned the decision of Bristol City Council to refuse the application by developer Watkins Jones Group.

The scheme proposes the demolition of existing employment floor space on the site to be replaced by accommodation for 345 students in three blocks up to five storeys high.

It would see the creation of a smaller amount of employment floorspace (208 sq metres) on the ground floor of the scheme, and the change of use of a listed building into a home.

The application had been recommended for approval by the city council’s officers, but was refused by elected members in September 2018.

In addition to concerns about the impact of student housing, the council also voiced concerns about the reduction in employment space.

However, the inspector rejected representations by an interested party that the scheme, along with other approved and planned student schemes, would change the character of the St Paul’s and Stokes Croft area of the city.

The appeal decision said: "The suggestion that the area would become a ‘concentrated ghetto of student accommodation’ is not borne out by the figures.

"The representations paint an excessively pessimistic view of potential adverse amenity impacts, which can generally be addressed by the efficient management of the complex and enforcement of tenancy agreements."

On the council's objection to the loss of employment space, the inspector said there was no indication that new-build employment uses in the area would be viable.

He said: "The appellants report that the most recent significant office development in the wider area continues to show high levels of vacancy several years after completion."

The inspector concluded that the scheme would make a "valuable contribution to meeting the city’s growing need for specialist housing and provide a productive re-use of brownfield land at the edge of the city centre".

These benefits outweighed the risk of harm to the character of a conservation, within which part of the site sits, the inspector concluded.

In August, in a separate case, an inspector rejected a resubmitted scheme for 68 units of student accommodation in Bristol following dismissal of an earlier appeal, finding harm to non-designated heritage assets.

Earlier in the month, another inspector approved a scheme for 166 student beds in a residential area of Surrey, saying harms to the landscape and a listed building were outweighed by the social and economic benefits.

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