LEAFLETS are being distributed on and around the University of Chester, to inform residents and businesses of initial plans to explore the development of a plot of land for student accommodation off Parkgate Road.

Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor, said: “A steady rise in the popularity of the University of Chester in recent years has led to an increased demand for student accommodation in the city, which, we have long acknowledged, is unsustainable.

“Opportunities to live on a land-locked campus are limited and the University is sensitive to the fact that the concentration of students living nearby on a temporary basis creates an imbalance in the resident population and affects its sense of community.

“To help address these and other issues, the University has purchased open land to the north of the campus, between Parkgate Road and the Deva Link Road at Abbots Mead and Glenesk, to explore the possibilities of purpose-built student accommodation.”

The benefits of this would include:

Regenerating a significant piece of land at a strategic ‘gateway’ to Chester.

Dispersing the large pockets of students living in rented ‘houses of multiple occupancy’ (HMOs) within a mixed community in Garden Quarter and Canal Basin.

Providing high quality residential accommodation and associated facilities in a self-contained, secure and managed environment for students.

For those students who need a car, allocating dedicated on-site spaces, to avoid on-road parking.

This project is currently in its very early stages. Several architectural practices have been commissioned to produce a set of concept drawings, from which a design will be submitted as part of the University’s planning application. The detailed proposal will be developed alongside ongoing survey work.

In addition to coming up with a scheme which is attractive, fit for purpose and well landscaped, their remit includes taking into account environmental sustainability, in line with the University’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

Utilities, services, drainage and environmental issues have all been taken into consideration, to enable the necessary investigations to take place in early 2009.

From mid-January, engineers will be on site for a fortnight, using drilling equipment to take soil and rock samples, which will undergo laboratory analysis.

Surveyors will be on site taking measurements, to help plot a three-dimensional image of the contours and levels of the land.

Professor Wheeler added: “Using the results from these earlier tests, a report will assess the potential style and layout of any proposed development. The University continues to explore alternative schemes with property developers.

“The University will explore submitting a planning application to the local authority for self-contained student accommodation, with the design informed by consultation with residents and the outcome of surveys and technical reports.

“We look forward to working closely with the members and officers from the new unitary authority in realising the potential which this scheme would unlock, not only for the University, but also for the city.”