Council and uni respond to growing Lancaster student accommodation concerns

The Hines student development taking shape in Lancaster
The Hines student development taking shape in Lancaster

As ever, new proposals to build more student accommodation in Lancaster city centre sparked lively debate on our social media pages.

Many people felt that rather than more student accommodation - in this case a 42 bed block between Dalton Square and Mary Street - what the city needs is social and affordable housing for working people.

Dalton Square development artist impression

Dalton Square development artist impression

But others said that students were essential for Lancaster’s economy, and that more purpose built student accommodation would free up the city’s traditional housing stock.

We asked Lancaster City Council and Lancaster University what their takes on the matter are.

Coun Janice Hanson, Cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration and planning, said that housing policy is “much like a jigsaw”, and it can take quite a while to see the whole picture.

She said: “With the growth of Lancaster University there is undoubtedly a demand for additional student housing and private developers are reacting to these market forces.

Work is under way to convert the former Gillows factory and nightclub on North Road into student accomodation

Work is under way to convert the former Gillows factory and nightclub on North Road into student accomodation

“Not only is this regenerating many brownfield and derelict sites for which there is very little other interest, it is helping to return traditional housing stock back to the residential open market, providing much-needed affordable accommodation for either rent or purchase.

“We’ve not yet seen the full effect, but in the next few years we should start to see students move from the traditional shared house to purpose-built properties as these better suit their needs.”

Coun Hanson said that in the last four years, 2,008 new homes had been built in the Lancaster district, 532 of which were “affordable”.

She pointed out that the council manages and maintains more than 3,000 homes, making it one of the largest registered providers of affordable rented housing within the district.

She added: “A programme of building new affordable homes for rent continues to be one of our ambitions, but is constrained due to funding, and the financial implications of the national Right to Buy policy.

“The Canal Quarter is one area that may be suitable for new affordable housing and which is being explored, but it is too early to say what the final plan will include.”

Lancaster University said that its plan is to grow “modestly” each year by around five per cent.

The university had a student population of 13,615 in 2016/17, so an increase of five per cent a year would be roughly 700 extra students per year.

A spokeswoman for the university said: “We don’t want to grow quickly because we want to ensure we can maintain quality.

“Plans are being considered to build more accommodation on campus.”

The spokeswoman also pointed out that the new developments in Lancaster would be open to all students, including the University of Cumbria.

Caton Court, a new 600 bed student development in Back Caton Road, is due to be completed by September 2019.

Read more

Last week, plans were revealed to create a six storey, 42 bed student development in Dalton Square. Read more HERE HERE

More on the former Gillows factory and nightclub in North Road HERE