Developers vow to ‘rethink’ the student hub after outcry from residents over ‘ghettoisation’ fears.
More than 120 residents have already objected to plans to house hundreds of students on land at Tower Wharf off Raymond Street.
Now developers say they will reconsider alternatives to proposals after coming face to face with mass opposition during a packed meeting at Garden Lane Methodist Church last week.
Concerned residents called for Miller Developments to withdraw their application, which would see 350 student apartments built next to Telford’s Warehouse, demanding that ‘not a single brick was laid’.
Andrew Sutherland, joint managing director of Miller Developments, agreed to reconsider the plans and take on board residents’ comments during the meeting, but sparked fresh concerns after repeatedly stating the university supported the plans.
Residents demanded answers from the university, questioning why they hadn’t attended the meeting and saying the way they treated the community was ‘shameful’.
“If the university says to me that they have a requirement for X number of beds, then to me it makes sense for us to go ahead,” said Mr Sutherland. “If the university was saying to us categorically we have no requirements here whatsoever we wouldn’t have started this process.
“Personally I wouldn’t spend almost a quarter of a million pounds getting where we are today if there wasn’t a need.”
Mr Sutherland, who says he first met with the university’s vice-chancellor Tim Wheeler, back in November, said there was a requirement for 2,000 beds but the university could cope with 1,500.
But residents objected to a further influx of students into the area saying the community had already reached tipping point and would be detrimentally damaged if the plans went ahead.
“What you’ve got here is a room full of people who are totally, absolutely, without question opposed to this development,” said Roy Tapp.
“We know that by increasing the student population the area will be drastically affected and our lives will be changed permanently. You will leave us with the problem.
“Withdraw this application, we don’t want a brick laid. How many more students would we accept – none.”
Andrew Sutherland agreed to take back some of the comments and work with the community to reconsider the application.
A spokesperson for the University of Chester said: “The university maintains a strictly neutral approach with regard to all speculative proposals from private developers for student accommodation.
“The university has been involved in meetings with a number of private developers – at their request. This is not indicative of any commitment on the university’s part.
“In respect of student accommodation, the university has always stated that it is the students’ preference to be close to the university’s campuses and to the city centre and to relate to sustainable student demand.
“While universities’ business planning attempts to anticipate potential policy changes and market forces, it is impossible to predict these with any certainty from one academic year to the next, which means a cautious approach is necessary for operating as a successful business in this volatile environment.”