Student flats 'will change character of our village’

August 08 2020
Student flats 'will change character of our village’

More than 70 Cheswick residents have made strongly-worded complaints to South Glos Council over plans to create a student accommodation block in currently empty retail units.

The accommodation, for UWE students, would be on two levels and would sit below existing residential apartments. It would consist of a mix of shared and studio apartments and is being applied for by Christian Grant Properties Ltd.Local people and councillors have voiced considerable concern, citing potential problems around parking, noise, litter and even potential drug taking.
They say many people moved to Cheswick thinking it was a family-friendly neighbourhood but that this plan would change the character of the village.There are also concerns that rents were prohibitively high and not enough effort went into finding retail tenants.A small number of people have defended the plans, accusing some objectors of creating'horrible stereotypes' about students.
Parish councillor Andrew Shore said the development would effectively extend the university into a normal residential area.
He said:"When acquiring their properties, local residents were not expecting to become part of an extended student campus."This building was designed for retail use and it would be much better if we had a doctor or a dentist. 
"The university will say they are thriving and need the accommodation, but this will change the whole character of Cheswick. Instead, they should be expanding accommodation within the campus grounds.” 
Cllr Shore is particularly concerned that following recent problems with noise from the gym, which took over a nearby retail unit, there could be more impact on residents if student accommodation occupies units intended for retail use.
South Glos councillor James Arrowsmith said:"When residents moved into Cheswick Village they were promised a Square alive with shops, bars, restaurants, and businesses. After seeing it quiet and empty for so many years only for student accommodation to fill the space feels like a slap to the face. Residents have the right to feel a sense of betrayal over a developer's broken promise."
Documents submitted to the council by Angus Meek Architects say:"The proportion of vacant premises on site convey the difficulty of its current land-use in respect of viability as a commercial location. 
"A change of use to student accommodation would enable the existing building to provide a positive contribution to the locality.
"Given the number of positive aspects the existing building and site would provide for student accommodation, development can be delivered with minimal change to the existing vacant premises or impacts on the existing accommodation and uses.
"The inclusion of students on the site could help support local businesses to help sustain those in the neighbouring retail units."
In a letter of support for the application, Alistair Brooke, UWE Assistant Director of Estates, said:"To help maintain and grow its reputation, UWE wishes to ensure that all students have a first class student experience and in particular are provided with suitable accommodation in which to stay during their time at Bristol. As part of the residential accommodation strategy, there is an emphasis on campus living. UWE has provided a large amount of accommodation on Frenchay Campus; however, there is still strong demand.
"Accordingly, UWE is keen to see new Purpose-Built Student Accommodation(PBSA) provided, however, this must be in the right location and of a high standard of design.
"The locational credentials of this scheme are excellent. The site is immediately adjacent to the main UWE campus, and accordingly the occupiers can easily walk or cycle for their studies and student campus experiences.”
 
Public views
Dave Atkinson: I strongly oppose this development because of the adverse effect it will have on the local community and it's detriment to the sustainability and balance of the area. The vast majority of the students who already live here seem to have little or no respect for the other local residents. We are constantly plagued with loud music, drug use, shouting and car doors being slammed at all hours. 
 
Neha Agarwal: It is disappointing to see a plan that hinders the growth of business and community. Cheswick village hasn't got a town/community centre or a place where neighbours could gather as a community. Instead of creating more flats I would have liked to see the creation of openings for local businesses.
 
Timothy Fairlie: The high density of accommodation proposed is totally out of character in Cheswick, where there is no comparable density of accommodation for students(or otherwise). Cheswick is a development with a distinctive feel, consisting primarily of family homes.
 
 Dr Tope Ajayi: There currently isn't enough parking for residents and their visitors, let alone having an extra 50 students, most of which will have cars.
 
Elena Porter: I fully support the development. The lot is not being used currently and as a student I understand how difficult it can be finding student housing. I have heard comments about students being loud and messy. I think this is a horrible stereotype as my housemates and myself have been living in Cheswick for over a year without a single noise complaint from neighbours.