Norwich needs a plan for student housing, say Greens

14 December 2017

Green Party councillors are calling on Norwich City Council to develop a strategy for student housing as soon as possible, while proposals for large student housing developments continue to come forward across the city centre.

A controversial application for an eight-storey block of student flats on land next to Sentinel House on Surrey Street was recommended for approval by council planning officers, but was rejected by the planning committee on Thursday, with councillors arguing that the scale was too big and the impact on neighbours would be unacceptable.

Several proposals for student accommodation in the same area have recently been approved, however, with a major development planned for St Stephens Towers and construction well under way on the old Mecca Bingo site on All Saints Green. Other controversial developments are also proposed for Duke Street and St Crispin’s House.

Green councillors are concerned that the lack of an overall strategy for student housing leaves Norwich facing the ongoing risk of inappropriate development which does not meet real need.

The Green Party group has proposed a list of issues which they want to see addressed in a new strategy, including facilities and outdoor space, transport access, affordability, the effect of new student housing on neighbouring residents, and whether accommodation should be clustered in certain areas or dispersed around the city.

Councillor Simeon Jackson, who sits on the council’s planning committee and has been speaking to council officers about the need for a strategy, said: “With UEA and NUA planning to expand, there will clearly be a need for more student accommodation in the future. At the moment, applications are coming forward piecemeal, with no overall vision for what Norwich actually wants and needs.

“To avoid unplanned development putting pressure on transport and other services, we need a strategy setting out how the city’s student population will be housed for many years to come. We need to decide how much accommodation is needed, what kind, and where.

“This strategy should be drawn up with input from local residents, students and the universities, to ensure future developments are appropriate for the needs of the city.”

Councillor Jackson added that officers have been supportive of the Green group’s proposals, and are working on the issue.

“I am reassured that the council recognises the need to address this issue and is working with the universities,” he said. “My Green Party colleagues and I will continue to push for residents to be fully included in the process, and for a robust strategy that looks to the long term.”

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