The Humble Petition of residents of the City of Chester,
Declares that Government planning guidance requires amendment to ensure that it includes a statutory strategic studentification policy and to ensure that student accommodation demand is factored into housing assessment made as part of any emerging Strategic Local Plan; further that the Government should make clear all development options and locations concerned with delivery of amenities to meet higher education growth; further that student accommodation has been and continues to be permitted at inappropriate locations to house increasing numbers of students in the City of Chester; further that this adversely affects the working city and residential local community; further that the Local Authority and Inspectorate decisions taken to allow this accommodation undermines commitments made on the Petitioners’ behalf in the recently adopted Strategic Local Plan to bring a growing West Cheshire elderly population and required future workforce into the city; further that this undermines the Government's National Planning Policy Framework commitment to protect the character of local areas and to defend people’s rights to tranquillity as well as compromising delivery of required affordable and mixed residential accommodation; further that in Chester the loss of potential inner city development sites are having adverse effects; and further that in 2011 the Council voted in favour of consolidating a significant body of student intake into a single area by way of a student village solution but despite this, student accommodation is appearing in many areas in the city, causing unbalanced outcomes.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Government to make provision for legislation to ensure that local authorities sustainably manage the interests of all parties when considering where student accommodation is developed.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Christian Matheson, Official Report, 27 January 2016; Vol. 605, c. 384.]
Observations from the Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): This Government have moved away from the centralised, regulatory approach which has dominated planning in recent years and created a system which encourages local authorities and local people to take responsibility for shaping their communities. Decisions on location and type of housing should reflect local priorities expressed through the Local Plan, rather than nationally imposed rules. In this case the relevant Local Plan is Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan adopted January 2015 and the Chester One City Plan 2012-2027.
The National Planning Policy Framework states that local planning authorities should have a clear understanding of housing needs in their area. It encourages local authorities to identify the accommodation needs of different groups within the community and to plan proactively to support them. While this includes recognising the needs of students it is also important that local authorities look to plan for a mix of accommodation which would support the needs of local residents, including older people.
The Government fully support providing dedicated student accommodation. This may provide low-cost housing that takes pressure off the private rented sector, avoids potential problems of student houses in multiple occupation, and increases the overall housing stock available for local people. On 25 March 2015 the Government announced the publication of its updated planning guidance on supporting the provision of dedicated student accommodation. This can be found at:
The Government fully understand that a high concentration of houses in multiple occupation in a single part of a city can change the character of that area and can lead to imbalance in communities. We do not want to see so called ‘student ghettos’ springing up in our university cities. Along with our students we want to see our university cities and towns thrive and grow. In areas experiencing problems with uncontrolled houses in multiple occupation development, local authorities are able to use their existing direction making powers to restrict the use of properties as houses in multiple occupation.