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Concerns Over Use of Student PBSA in Staffordshire

Posted by Calum Martin

Image courtesy of Flickr, (View licence)

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."