£42m PBSA Project in Norwich Won by McAleer & Rushe
14th Jan 2022
Northern Irish building contractor McAleer & Rushe is set to start works on a brand-new £42m student accommodation project in Norwich.
The project will see the transformation of a 1970s office, St. Crispin's house, into a 684-bed student residence.
Previously used as an overflow building for Her Majesty's Stationery Office, the derelict building was sold off in the late 90s and split into separate offices. Since the offices were abandoned, the gardens within the atrium have become overgrown and documented by photographer Morgan O'Donovan.
As part of the refurbishment, St Crispin's House is set to be extended, with additional floors being added alongside a five-storey extension. In addition, the plans feature 9,500 square feet of communal space to contain a new gym and study spaces for its residents. An external courtyard will feature storage spaces for bicycles as well as charging points for electric vehicles.
Director of contracts for McAleer & Rushe Mark Elliott said: "In delivering a facility tailored to the evolving needs and expectations of the city's students, we will also be sensitively restoring and conserving a derelict building in a sustainable way for future generations. By retaining the existing building structure with a large section of the roof level designed as a green roof, this major new development will be a visually impressive and exciting new addition to the city's vibrant community mix."
The large renovation project is expected to be completed by Summer 2023, and marks the fifth contract the builders have collaborated with clients Global Student Accommodation on.
Once open, the residence will be operated by student accommodation specialists Yugo.
The construction of 245 new student flats in Cambridge has been pushed back after concerns were raised over who will be occupying the rooms.
A bid for the development, which will consist of 39 townhouses, was submitted to Cambridge City Council by St John's College.
The Grange Lane development, south of Wilberforce Road, is intended to be used by the university academic staff as well as its students.
In a statement submitted during the planning application, the college has highlighted there is increasing demand for accommodation amongst students, staff and Fellows.
Councillors have recommended a condition that will allocate 120 rooms to students only.
Councillor Katie Porrer stated she did not feel the application should be considered under student accommodation policy, adding that the application frustrated her as, in principle, she did not object to the plans.
Council officers highlighted conditions that would limit the maximum amount of time anyone could stay in the accommodation to a maximum of three years.
Councillor Katie Thornburrow highlighted that term time was only 24 weeks of the year and questioned the use of the accommodation over the rest of the year.
Due to the questions raised, Councillor Thornburrow suggested that a decision on the application should be deferred. This was to ensure more information could be provided as to how the accommodation would be used outside of term time.
Following a fire survey, students living in Cathedral Court halls of residence in Derby have been told that they will not be able to return to the accommodation this academic year.
The residence advertises rents from £157.08 per week, and contains 350 premium en-suite student rooms.
Residents were first notified of the issue on 22nd December. An email was sent stating that, although there was not an increased risk of fire in the building, if a fire were to break out, "it would be harder to contain its spread without making changes to the building."
Residents were informed they had to move out of building, however most had already left the city for the Christmas break.
Last week, the University announced that the residence would continue to remain closed for at least the remainder of this academic year.
A university spokesperson has said that "Further assessments undertaken over the past two weeks have confirmed that the required maintenance works will be noisy and intrusive, and not conducive to an enjoyable environment in which to live, study and socialise."
The residence has been removed from the university's website. Students that were previously housed in Cathedral Court have been offered alternative accommodation for the remainder of the year.
St Crispin's House on Duke Street, an abandoned '70s office building, has been approved for conversion into a 684-bed PBSA.
The contract for the construction has been awarded to McAleer and Rushe. The Norwich project will be the company's fifth contract with client Global Student Accommodation.
The work will involve adding additional floors to the current structure, converting it into a 7-storey building, as well as adding a 5-storey extension to the rear.
Accommodation will be split between single studios, double studios, and cluster flats. All rooms will include en-suite bathrooms.
As well as student rooms, the building will have facilities including a landscaped courtyard, a gym, study spaces and a multi-purpose event room. There will also be bike parking and EV charging points available.
The application for the conversion states that "The percentage of students [69.1%] that are unable to access PBSA in Norwich is far higher than at other significant UK University cities which is a strong indication that there is high demand for further PBSA development. "
The building is expected to meet an increasing need for student accommodation throughout the city of Norwich.
Construction is expected to be completed in Summer 2023.
Unite has released its latest quarterly update and says that 60% of its rooms are now booked for the next academic year, up from 58% recorded during the same period last year.
The company also expects strong student demand for 2022-23 but is anticipating a slightly later sales cycle for international students than in a typical year due to continued uncertainty surrounding Covid.
In response, Unite has increased its focus on retaining direct-let customers, leading to growth in re-bookers.
For 2022-23 it is maintaining its rental growth guidance of 3.0-3.5%.
The company's USAF portfolio was valued at £2,867 million, representing a 1.6% increase during the quarter and a 4.6% increase for the year. This was driven principally by an 8 basis point reduction in property yields. Meanwhile, LSAV's investment portfolio was valued at £1,819 million, up 3.1% in the quarter and 10.4% for the year. The valuation increase was attributed to rental growth of 0.5% and a 12 basis point reduction in property yields.
Concerns have been voiced by councillors in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire, after a purpose-built student accommodation block has requested an extension on their temporary permission to let out rooms to non-students.
The building, situated on London Road, was developed by Abode Residencies. It consists of 499 student apartments and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abode residences have struggled to fill all of the rooms with students in the area.
Last year, a temporary relaxation of planning conditions was granted, which allowed the company to let out available rooms for non-students as well. This was expected to help house some of the staff from Royal Stoke University Hospital, located 300 metres from the residence.
The developers' Abode had originally requested an extension to be able to take non-students for an additional two years, but this was rejected by Newcastle Borough Council's planning committee. Instead, the company have been granted a years extension, which will run until August 31st, 2023.
Councillor Ken Owen stated: "My major concern is that we've previously given this application an extension to August 2022, and now they're coming back to us for a further extension.
"When - if ever - will this stop? Do we as a council draw a line under the matter and say 'no' or do we keep getting this application before us for further extensions?"
Councillor Mark Holland was also critical of the application stating: "If they didn't feel they could flog it to students, and they weren't confident of getting their financial kicks through the business model that they've chosen, then they shouldn't have applied for it in the first place.
"Then we'd have a better standard of accommodation for all the people who live in the borough."
Acknowledging that the local NHS was supportive of the use of apartments for hospital staff, he stated that he felt it should have been allocated as a scheme for key workers when originally devised.
He added: "The reason it wasn't, presumably, is that the people behind it thought they could make more money out of student accommodation. Student accommodation is what they've got - and student accommodation is what they should cope with."
A new student accommodation block in York has received unanimous support from members of the City Council's planning committee and is set to be formally approved.
The proposed development site is located on Aubrey House, Foss Islands Road. Other developments are currently underway on the road including a new 4-storey hotel, which will take the place of a former carpet store.
The scheme has been put forward by Urbanite, S & JD Robertson Group Ltd and Portman Land Ltd. It will see the demolition of two existing buildings on the site.
Since first being announced in July 2020, the scheme has been scaled back in size. Originally planned to be a 7-storey, 112 bedroom building, the latest application sets out to provide bed spaces for 79 students. This will be made up of 11 cluster flats and 19 studios, alongside a communal room and a roof terrace. If formal approval is granted, each cluster will share a communal kitchen, dining and living space.
Despite the proposals backing from the Council, the scheme has had mixed reviews. Dr Duncan Marks of York Civic Trust has stated: "The architecture of Aubrey House itself remains one of the last tangible links to the C19 and early C20 uses of the site and when a community existed here."
He continued: "This area of the city is at risk of becoming the planning equivalent of a dumping ground of cheap hotels and densely-spaced student accommodation, with barely a tree or blade of grass between them, surrounded by busy roads and appalling air quality."
York's conservation architect has written: "The historic character immediately beyond the historic walls in this part of the city has largely been lost, but this means the remaining buildings are now key illustrations of the historic development of this part of the city, and their demolition and will harm that ability to understand."
Council officers have noted that the design of the new block is far from perfect, stating: "There are weaknesses in the scheme, notably the side and rear elevations which will appear particularly monotonous and bland due to the scale of the building and there being shear walls with no meaningful relief."
The proposal has been recommended in a report from the planning officers, noting: "The application site is in a sustainable location.
"The proposed development is not considered to result in harm to the residential amenity or highway safety, nor would the proposal have an unacceptable impact on ecology on or adjacent to the site.
"The proposal would provide student accommodation where there is a need within the city, and would benefit the wider housing supply."
She went on to warn that failure to provide this type of accommodation would stifle the growth of the city's student population, and in turn damage the local economy.
Following previous refusals, revised plans were submitted by Toplocation 4 Ltd and Longacre to demolish the existing Jubilee Centre, and build a new 120-bed student accommodation. These plans were approved by the Bath & North East Somerset Planning Committee prior to Christmas.
Previous applications for the Lower Bristol Road site were unanimously refused by the Planning Committee. Concerns raised by Councillors included flood risk, impact on other nearby listed properties, and design concerns - particularly the "blockiness" of the proposed building.
The re-submitted scheme was re-designed from first principles leading to a "more architectural resolved and coherent design proposal that draws its inspiration from the surrounding context." The scheme now aligns with the nearby Twerton Mill PBSA development.
The accommodation will consist of a mixture of 10, 7 and 5-bed clusters, as well as 48 studio flats.
The application demonstrated the need for additional PBSA student accommodation, which will "relieve pressure in existing suburban areas with students living in uncontrolled HMOs, which is a known problem in Bath".
Developers conclude that "The proposal will add significant new vitality and natural surveillance along this part of Lower Bristol Road, and combined with the substantial public realm enhancements, will contribute positively to a part of Bath (Twerton Riverside) that has been expressly identified for regeneration in the development plan"
On approval of the application, the Planning Committee commented that "The applicant considers that the provision of student accommodation to address the future shortfall is a significant benefit of the scheme."
"A shortfall of 640 student beds has been identified which, if not addressed, would lead to an increased pressure in the private rented sector (e.g., greater numbers of HMOs)."
After considering other PBSA in the pipeline, Councillors conclude that the proposed scheme "will provide 120 further beds which would therefore go some way to addressing the remaining shortfall."
It is hoped that the accommodation could be completed in 18 months.
The 10-storey building, which is located Maid Marian Way, is currently in use as a Travelodge hotel.
Permission has now been granted for the proposal, which will see the hotel transformed into 121 studio flats for Nottingham's university students.
The planning proposal was put forward by Nottingham Hotel Assets Limited alongside architects for the scheme, Self.
Developers have stated that the plans will provide "high-quality stylish student apartments" in Nottingham to a site that is currently looking "tired" and "in need of repair".
Executive chair of the Nottingham Civic Society Hilary Silvester has approved of the plans stating "At least if the student accommodation is there, then it's not taking up a more interesting building. But it is a 70's block so if there was anything of period it would be interesting to keep, to reflect the era in which it was built to an extent.
"If it's there it's there basically, if there are no grotesque decorations in it or murals so that it can be kept low key that would be good
"There's nothing much to celebrate with that building but on the other hand it's nothing much to spoil or mess about with - just keep it calm and dignified.
"With some of these blocks they try to jazz everything up, because then ten or 20 years later it looks so awful, so it's better to keep it simple."
The studio apartments are set to utilise the existing layout of the hotel, whilst also converting the first floor bar area into accommodation.
Self Architects, writing on behalf of the applicants have stated: "By increasing the number of dwellings and therefore the number of residents in the local vicinity, the proposed development of this site will help to support the existing businesses and facilities thus ensuring their long term success and the sustainability of this urban centre.
"The location of the site is inherently sustainable as it is already supported by local infrastructure and services."
The Raven Group have submitted revised plans for a three-storey student accommodation on Ellis Grove, following refusal by the planning committee last year.
The previous plans were refused as they were deemed to "represent an over-intensive form of development" in the September meeting. Concerns were also raised regarding lack of on-site parking.
The site is currently in use as a single-storey warehouse, which will be demolished if plans are approved.
Plans consist of a three bedroom, four bedroom and five bedroom apartment on each of the three floors, totalling 36 student beds. The Raven Group claim "The development has been designed to maximise the potential of the site".
Additional parking has been included in the revised plans, increasing from 2 parking bays to 14. This is in line with other PBSA that have previously been approved by the committee.
The Broxtowe Borough Council Planning Committee have recommended approval of the updated plans.
The proposal states that the current warehouse site is being "inefficiently used" and that, given the location, the proposed units would help to "meet a growing need of high-quality accommodation adding to the housing range."
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