Hundreds of student beds are in the pipeline to serve the expanding University of Chester with a huge scheme for about 400 students on schedule to open this autumn.
Finishing touches are taking place at Watkin Jones’ Tramways development near the railway station with 387 en suite rooms and 11 self contained studios.
Fresh Student Living, who will run the scheme, already operate the popular 128-bed Abbeygate complex on Victoria Road.
Another project which be completed next month is the Fortis Student Living development in Commonhall Street which involved the conversion of Chronicle House, the former headquarters of the Chester Chronicle, into 62 ‘luxury’ student rooms. Show bedrooms are ready along with the social room complete with huge flat-screen TV and a fully-equipped gym.
Plans were recently approved to demolish a derelict bakery in Trafford Street, Newtown, then erect a two-block studio apartment scheme in its place, ready for autumn 2016.
No time has been wasted in knocking down the bakery before construction starts on the 121-bed student housing complex next to Chester Fire Station but concerns remain among locals about the impact on the neighbourhood including the potential for parking overspill.
View a gallery of photographs from the three developments:
Cheshire West and Chester Council had rejected plans for student accommodation scheme in Upper Northgate Street but the company won on appeal. Demolition of the former flats and window showroom is now complete ready for work to start on the 117-bed development by student specialists Cityheart Ltd, with the opening scheduled for September 2016.
Perhaps most controversially of all is Miller Developments’ 350-bed scheme next to Telford’s Warehouse in an area which is already feeling under pressure from so-called studentification and a clash of lifestyles between traditional residents and students. Again the project was refused by the planning authority but once again the developer won on appeal although work has not yet begun.
Now there are plans to convert the former Church of England offices adjoining Telford’s, known as Diocesan House and Raymond House, into a 20-bed student complex.
The university itself has invested in accommodation which has included buying the former Travelodge hotel, conveniently situated between the city centre and the university’s main campus on Parkgate Road, where it also constructed a purpose-built residential block, creating a total of 360 additional rooms. This included Grosvenor House with 202 en-suite, self-catering studios across three blocks.
'Student accommodation shortages'
News that the Linenhall scheme is going ahead will be welcomed by the University of Chester which had raised fears over possible ‘student accommodation shortages’ if projects had fallen through. A submission to CWaC last year forecast between 3,000 and 4,300 scholars would be seeking private sector accommodation in the city by September 2016.
Vice Chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler tried to offer reassurances to disgruntled residents when he addressed a hostile meeting last November. While accepting the university had ‘grown significantly’ over the past two decades, he predicted only ‘modest growth’ in student numbers over the next few years and highlighted the institution’s £300m per year contribution to the local economy.
He put the case for providing purpose-built managed accommodation which he hoped would help rebalance the local housing market.
Prof Wheeler said: “If we see, as I hope we will, some of the developments like Linenhall with just over 500 bedrooms, come into student occupation, the university envisages a significant proportion of houses that it has going back into private sales and the rental market.”
Turning to student behaviour, Prof Wheeler said Chester students carried out about 29,000 hours of voluntary activity every year.
And he told the meeting: “It’s what the overwhelming majority of students do. They are committed to the city. They are committed to doing good things. I’d love to say it was 100%, it isn’t.
“We have a small minority of students who we disapprove of, who cause issues for their neighbours and that’s not something we condone or tolerate. And where we are notified we take very robust action against students who bring the university into disrepute.”