Town vs Gown in Chester

Posted by Kristina Murkett in

Chester may be the next university to join in the ongoing battle of Town Versus Gown, as Chester Community Voice UK says that the lack of an established policy on the issue of 'studentification' means that entire streets risk being taken over by student house-shares.

Mr. Barritt, from Handbridge, argued: "Lessons have not been learned and applied from what has already failed in other 'town and gown' conurbations in the UK. Our council has refused to produce a full impact assessment of studentification on Chester, even though we repeatedly demand one... This effectively gives the university too free a hand to inflict itself as it will on the city.'

Given that Chester's student population - which is currently 2500 strong - is expected to double by 2030, it is no surprise that locals are worried that the problem will only worsen unless the Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) adopts a new policy in order to specifically address this issue. Their recently established 'Local Plan' failed to acknowledge the impacts of studentification, although CWaC has said that a 'draft supplementary planning document' on the subject of HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupants) had been discussed at the Local Development Framework Panel last month.

One of the latest developments - a 350 bed student block in the Garden Quarter - has been seen as 'sounding the death knell for the traditional community.' The locals' fear centres around anti-social behaviour, rubbish, inconsiderate parking and noise from party-going students; plus the undermining of their strong arts scene, which includes music venue Telford's Warehouse, which unfortunately happens to be right next door to the application site.

Inspector Mr Pritchard said: "Whilst I appreciate the concerns of the residents of the Garden Quarter, there seems to be a fundamental and perhaps irreconcilable conflict between the council's firm wish to see the continuing expansion of the university, with all the benefits that will bring to the city, and the almost inevitable development of a 'student quarter', such has existed in many other UK cities for decades, close to the main campus."

Unfortunately the outlook for locals doesn't look promising, as Mr Pritchard added: "In a situation where I expect that there will be continuing growth... even if not at the optimistic rates forecast by the university itself... I cannot see any substantial lessening of the pressures on the Garden Quarter." A spokesman from CWaC said that a workshop, involving planners and representatives of public organisations, would still be held in the near future, but as Chester Community Voice UK pointed out, this is most likely going to result in a 'watered down' version of its proposed strategy, rather than 'strategic management' of the student housing situation.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons.