Developers Look to Shipping Containers to Provide Student Housing

Posted by Richard Ward

Developers in Penryn are looking to create hundreds of student beds using shipping containers.

The scheme has been earmarked for the former Home Shed Site on Kernick Road and if given approval will result in 264 rooms being built along with a swimming pool and gym.

Included in the designs is also space for a health centre, business unit and innovation hubs.

The latest plans follow proposals submitted last year by Expedite Project Services on behalf of the owners of Home Shed to build more than 400 student flats in shipping containers, up to six storeys tall.

However, Home Shed subsequently fell into administration, resulting in Irregular Cornwall stepping in to deliver the scheme. The South West-based company has drawn up a master plan for the site, which they hope will address concerns regarding the increased demand for student housing in Falmouth and Penryn.

The first phase includes the construction of 264 student beds which will be built by transforming shipping containers into accommodation.

Project manager Andy Cook from irregular Cornwall is confident the proposed development would provide a suitable alternative to student housing in Falmouth, whilst also creating additional jobs.

He added: "We're excited to be creating a local solution to the pressures of student accommodation. The number of students is going to rise - the cap has already been raised by Cornwall Council - so there needs to be a fast and practical solution that deals with local people's objections to in town development and which protects the beautiful greenfield surroundings.

"We want to move quickly to stem the loss of houses that could be used for local families as well as re-vitalising redundant brownfield land."

If approved quickly it's hoped work on the site can begin this September, with students able to move in in time for the 2018 academic year.


Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Results Revealed

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The results of the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) have been published, with more than 230 universities and higher education institutions in the UK being awarded one of three available medals.

The newly released TEF rankings are a government-backed assessment of undergraduate teaching quality, which aims to provide a guide to prospective students when choosing where to study.

The TEF is a voluntary framework, with participating institutions receiving a Gold, Silver or Bronze award, which reflect their quality of teaching, learning environment and student outcomes such as employability.

Those being awarded a TEF ranking will be able to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation, although the Department for Education is yet to confirm what the 2018-19 fees cap will be.

Some notable institutions that received the lowest award include the London School of Economics, The University of Southampton, and the University of Liverpool, all of which are Russell Group members.

In total, more than half of Russell Group institutions, usually described as being the best in the country, did not score a Gold rating.

Understandably some of those, including the University of Southampton, are less than pleased with the award they've been given.

Commenting on the results, Sir Christopher Snowden, said: "I know I am not alone in having deep concerns about its subjective assessment, its lack of transparency, and with different benchmarks for each institution removing any sense of equity and equality of assessment.

"Our own student satisfaction metrics, including satisfaction with teaching, are better than some of those universities who have been awarded silver and gold today."

Similarly, the University of Liverpool said it was disappointed with its Bronze award. Other league tables consistently place the institution within the top 200 universities globally, but the university said it was committed to improving against the measures used in the TEF.

Defending the results, the Higher Education Policy Institute argued that TEF would have failed if it had simply replicated existing hierarchies. However, they suggested prospective students should use the rankings with caution, as they are not reflective of individual courses but of a university as a whole.

A full table of results can be found via the Higher Education Funding Council for England's website.


GSA Expands into Spanish Student Accommodation

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Global Student Accommodation (GSA) has announced its expansion into Spain after having acquired a Spanish student accommodation portfolio.

The portfolio consists of 914 beds across three properties, plus a further 1,320 beds currently in development, which were acquired from funds run by Oaktree Capital Management.

Commenting on the deal, Nicholas Porter, founder and chairman of GSA, said: "We continue to deliver on our rapid European expansion plans, targeting higher education markets where there is a substantial supply-demand imbalance.

"Our brands are carefully targeted towards students, capturing the demand for good quality purpose-built student accommodation combined with excellent customer services."

All of the operational beds are located in central Madrid. The portfolio consists of Galdos, with 370 beds in the centre of the city's main university campus, El Faro with 358 beds in a newly developed building, and Claraval, a prime city centre location comprising of 186 beds.

A further building will be added to the Madrid portfolio when the Lope de Vega University Residence is opened in September, which will be able to accommodation 468 domestic and international students.

Alongside the operational residences, the deal also includes two further development schemes in Barcelona. The two sites are expected to be operational by 2019 and will bring the total number of beds under management in Spain to 2,234.

The expansion into the Spanish market will see GSA also take on the Nexo Residencias brand, making it the third in Europe for GSA, alongside The Student Housing Company and Uninest Student Residences.


Lettings Fees to be Banned

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Legislation banning landlords and agents from charging letting fees looks likely to come into force after it was announced within the Queen's Speech today.

The Queen's Speech this morning outlined a Draft Tenants' Fees Bill will be bought forward, which plans to ban letting fees being charged to tenants as a condition of their tenancy.

The legislation appears to go further than the initial consultation by indicating there will be measures to enforce the ban with provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees. However, at this stage it's unclear whether this will be applied retrospectively.

A survey by Citizens Advice, which formed part of the initial consultation, found nearly two-thirds (64%) of tenants had problems paying letting agents' fees, while 42% had to borrow money to do so. Meanwhile, the 2014-15 English Housing Survey found that the mean average fee paid by a household in 2014-15 was £223, although this varied significantly between location and agent.

The aim of the new bill is to improve transparency in the market while making the private rented sector fairer and more affordable.

An eight-week consultation on banning letting fees closed in April and responses will be used to inform the draft bill.


Falmouth Council Appose Student Housing Earmarked for the Ocean Bowl

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Plans to develop purpose-built student accommodation on the Ocean Bowl site in Falmouth have been described as inappropriate, due to their negative impact on the docks and tourism.

Falmouth Town Council have opposed the proposals put forward from Rengen, marking the second application submitted to develop the site that's come under fire. The latest application calls for the construction of 190 student beds, a substantial reduction on the 249 proposed the first time around.

Site is currently owned by Pendennis Shipyard and plans to sell the grounds to developers Rengen, who had wanted to build two blocks of student accommodation up to six storeys tall, along with facilities such as a gym, cinema and restaurant.

Despite the most recent application representing a reduction on the initially proposed scheme, the designs still received a significant number of objections. Those opposed to the scheme included Falmouth Town Council and Falmouth Docks, which suggested the development could jeopardise the site's future.

Falmouth Town Council's planning committee have recommended the latest application is also refused.

They added it would go against the Port Masterplan, while adversely affect dock operations. They also argued it would have a negative impact on tourism given its proximity to the iconic Falmouth Hotel.

Documents submitted as part of the latest application said: "This entirely new proposal addresses many concerns raised in response to a previous application on this site, which is now the subject of an appeal.

"This new proposal is designed with a greater sensitivity to the historic fabric of Falmouth."

A final decision is expected on the plans by the end of July.


Major Student Accommodation Development Approved in Dublin

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Developers have been given the go ahead to build a major student housing scheme on one of northside's landmark shopping centres.

Dublin City Council planners have granted permission to build 500 student apartments above the shopping centre, which will primarily cater for students attending the DIT Grangegorman campus.

The 1984-built centre, opposite the site of a former cattle market off the North Circular Road, adjoins part of the DIT Grangegorman campus.

It's hoped the Dublin Institute of Technology will transform the fortunes of the inner-city close to Smithfield. The first new building constructed on the Grangegorman campus was opened in March this year and will be home to the institution's postgraduate researches as well as those looking to commercialise their research.

In total by the end of 2017 the campus will accommodate around 10,000 students. These numbers are expected to swell to around 20,000 upon completion in 2020.

Under the proposals, Park Shopping Centre will be demolished and re-built to include a new shopping centre as well as student accommodation. Tesco will also remain as anchor tenants.

Despite the application ultimately being approved, locals had raised concerns with the loss of privacy as well as noise during construction, and the scale and volume of the development.


31 Student Beds Proposed for Exeter

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Plans have been put forward to develop The Hub, situated at the Mary Arches Street and Bartholomew Street East junction in Exeter, into student housing.

Under the proposals, the 1950's building could be demolished and turned into a 31-bed student accommodation.

Plans put forward to Exeter City Council outline the developers aim of creating uninterrupted student accommodation along Bartholomew Street East. The same developer already has a scheme underway located directly opposite the proposed site.

Both developments would be branded The Neighbourhood and the new scheme will be an exact copy of the pre-existing development site.

According to developers, the plans are a direct response to the growing number students studying within the City and the significant need for student accommodation.

Documents submitted as part of the application, said: "This is set against the wider need for housing land within Exeter and the opportunity provided by such purpose-built student accommodation to 'free up' traditional homes in local communities for families."

Those students living in the proposed accommodation will have access to facilities at Quintana Gate, which includes a gym, study rooms, communal areas and a concierge.

The planning statement concluded the development was in line with relevant local and national planning policy and will provide high quality student housing within a sustainable location.


Universities Struggling in a Competitive Landscape

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In an increasingly competitive market, figures suggest some former polytechnics and colleges are struggling to survive.

Manchester Metropolitan University's Crewe campus is to close in the summer of 2019, with 160 academic jobs at risk.

Despite a recent £70 million redevelopment, the Cheshire site will be shut down after university chiefs confirmed in February it was no longer academically or financially sustainable.

As a result of the job losses, academics will stage a two-day walkout in protest of the university shutting the campus down.

Although students have been told they can finish their degrees, they're concerns lecturers won't be around to teach them.

The scale of the problem for former polytechnics and colleges can be seen in the number of students starting full-time courses between 2011 and 2015. During this period, those attending Russell Group universities grew by 15%, while the number of entrants to MillionPlus institutions, which includes former polytechnics and colleges, declined by 22.9%.

The trend appears to be linked to Russell Group universities lowering their entrance requirements in some subject areas. Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, said: "These young women and men are typically from groups who have historically been under-represented in higher education."

With competition for places intensifying, at least 16 universities have announced redundancy programmes for academic staff.

Commenting on the increasing financial pressures facing institutions, Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, suggests some universities may have to merge to survive. Meanwhile, universities or branch campuses such as Crewe, which typically recruit local students from working-class background, are particularly vulnerable.

The news comes ahead of the new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is to be released this Thursday and ranks institutions on areas such as student satisfaction and employability. Expectations are the new rankings could place further pressure on some universities.


Student Loan Debt Surpasses £100bn

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Student loan debt in the UK has grown to more than £100bn for the first time.

Outstanding loans increased by 16.6% to £100.5bn at the end of March, up from the £86.2bn recorded at the same point in time the previous year.

Of the total debt recorded, £89.3bn was associated to loans taken by English students.

Expectations are that the overall level of debt will increase further, as more money is lent out each year, with Sorana Vierue, the vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students calling the levels "eye-watering".

Prior to increased fees being levied by universities in 2012, when institutions in England were allowed to charge up to £9,000 a year, student debt was less than half its current level, at £45.9bn.

Some are predicting student loan debt to double to £200bn within the next six years, making it economically significant, eclipsing credit card debt currently estimated at £68bn.

Despite yearly tuition fee increases being of concern to prospective students, the total outstanding debt is less meaningful to individuals and will be of greater concern to taxpayers and the government.

Commenting on the current loans system, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "Our student finance system removes upfront financial barriers for anyone hoping to study, and students only pay back what they can afford based on their income."

With the average student in England graduating with £32,220 in debt, there are however outstanding questions as to the long-term impact this will have on graduates purchasing power or the ability to contribute to pensions.


Watkin Jones Invites Chester Residents to View Student Accommodation Plans

Posted by Richard Ward

Local residents have been invited to view plans for a potential student housing development in Chester.

There had been rumours Stagecoach wanted to sell its Liverpool Road bus depot as a potential site to develop into student accommodation, partly because of its proximity to the University of Chester.

Now plans to build student housing look to have taken a step forward, with developer Watkin Jones distributing leaflets to neighbours ahead of a public exhibition on 22 June.

The leaflet reads: "The Watkin Jones Group have been in preliminary discussions with Cheshire West and Chester Council regarding the redevelopment of the Stagecoach depot located between Liverpool Road and Victoria Road in Chester. The proposal is for purpose-built, managed, student accommodation and ancillary facilities."

It continued, inviting recipients to preview draft proposals, providing locals the chance to view draft plans, discuss proposals and provide comment for inclusion into the developments evolving design.

It's understood Stagecoach already have a conditional agreement in place with Watkin Jones for the sale of its depot in Chester, with the aim to relocate to an alternative site.

Elsewhere in Chester a 121-bed student development in Trafford Street, Newtown, has now opened. The same developers behind the scheme have gained planning permission for a further 150 student beds at an additional development in Trafford Street. Approval for the latest scheme was granted upon appeal and will result in the demolition of Oakbase House.