Plans to provide more large-scale, private student housing in Norwich’s city centre have yet again sparked controversy.
Following the addition of the newly-built Pablo Fanque House near to the bus station, plans have been made for two more buildings which will house a total of 750 students. The proposals included changes to St Crispins House, which could be turned into homes for approximately 600 students, and the site next to Premier Inn on Duke Street, which could house another 150 students.
While the initiatives were praised by some for the economic boost they would bring the city centre and for freeing up houses for families in the area, there have also been concerns about the risks of ‘studentification’.
Norwich City Council has been criticised for not properly assessing how much student accommodation is needed, which Norwich’s Green Party said could lead to “piecemeal development” in the city centre.
Criticism has also centred around the plans to develop flats on a piece of land next to the Premier Inn on Duke Street.
This proposal has raised more than 90 objections, primarily due to the proposed height of the building. At an estimated nine stories high, the building would overshadow the nearby Jane Austen Academy.
Speaking to the Norwich Evening News, James Goffin (part of the Inspiration Trust which owns the Academy) stated: “We remain extremely concerned about the overly domineering size of this structure, both on the Duke Street scene and directly on the environs of Jane Austen College.”
Other neighbours have also objected to the building’s size and the resulting lack of light. On Thursday 8 March, city councillors finally voted to turn down the development for 152 students at the site next to Premier Inn on Duke Street. Fourteen people spoke against the application at the City Council’s planning committee meeting.
However, the planning committee did unanimously approve the separate application to convert the nearby St Crispin’s House office block into 600 student rooms. A spokesperson for UEA said: “UEA recognises that a diverse student population requires a diverse range of accommodation solutions and it is certainly the case that for some students, accommodation offered by private providers is their choice of living arrangement.”
They added: “These developments provide welcome additional capacity and choice for all of Norwich’s universities’ students and they also serve to breathe new life into key city-centre sites that have been economically redundant for some years.”