CAMPAIGNERS fighting the controversial £100m student village project have welcomed the University of Chester’s bid to take over the nearby Travelodge building.
The university and La Salle Investment Management have submitted a joint planning application to Cheshire West and Chester Council to convert the 160-bedroom Travelodge on Delamere Street to student housing.
The news comes as councillors are due to decide today (Thursday) on the student village – a 2,300-bed complex and Steve Redgrave sports institute proposed by Chester-based Bell Developments on green belt land between Blacon and Mollington. Last week a planning expert recommended the application be rejected.
In a statement, the university said 532 of its first-year intake (21%) were living in privately-owned premises, a figure expected to drop by 200 when a new purpose-built hall is completed on the main Parkgate Road campus this autumn.
Should the Travelodge application be successful, the university said it would leave just 6%, or about 150-170 students, living independently.
It added that although the number of applicants had increased by 7% this year, it did not expect student numbers to rise dramatically as the Government’s allocation of undergraduate numbers remains capped.
The Friends of North Chester Greenbelt group, which has previously condemned the student village bid as ‘ill thought out’, said the Travelodge scheme ‘ticks all the right boxes’.
Andy Scargill, spokesman for the group, said: “We are very pleased this plan has been put forward. It’s close to the university and while the building doesn’t look aesthetically great, it would look better filled with university students rather than half-empty as it is now.”
Professor Tim Wheeler, the University’s vice chancellor, said: “Being equidistant between the university’s main campus and the city centre, the Travelodge occupies an ideal location.
“If the application is approved as student accommodation, it would guarantee occupation during term time for students and also be a purpose-built venue for our conference delegates during the vacations.
“The University believes student accommodation is a realistic proposition for this site. It would make use of an existing building on a designated site, without encroaching further outside Chester or being a radical departure from its current use.”
Katie Badman, president of Chester students’ union, added: “I understand the property could be ready as early as this summer, which would mean it could be offered to students applying for the 2013/14 academic year.”
Dave Bell, one of the directors at Bell Developments, said the student village would bring more than 800 jobs and generate £270m for the local economy, and the developers would likely appeal if the bid was rejected.