Agenda item

DM/21/01611/FPA - Apollo Bingo, Front Street, New Durham, Durham, DH1 2EP

Demolition of Existing Bingo Hall and erections of 1no. 4 Storey Purpose Built Student Accommodation with associated parking, and servicing facilities.


The Senior Planning Officer, Leigh Dalby, gave a detailed presentation on the report relating to the abovementioned planning application, a copy of which had been circulated (for copy see file of minutes).  Members noted that the written report was supplemented by a visual presentation which included photographs of the site.  The Senior Planning Officer advised that Members of the Committee had visited the site and were familiar with the location and setting.    The application was for the demolition of existing bingo hall and erection of 1no. Part 3, Part 4 Storey Purpose Built Student Accommodation with associated parking, and servicing facilities and was recommended for approval, subject to conditions and a Section 106 Legal Agreement.


The Senior Planning Officer noted amendments to Condition 16 to include details of any community facilities proposed, and an additional condition requiring, prior to the demolition, that a historic record is taken of the existing building for record.


The Chair thanked the Senior Planning Officer and asked Parish Councillor Patrick Conway, representing Belmont Parish Council, to speak in relation to the application.


Parish Councillor P Conway thanked the Chair for the opportunity to address the Committee on behalf of Belmont Parish Council in respect of the crucial application before Members. 


He explained that the application had aroused considerable opposition not only from nearby residents, but also from residents further afield within the Parish and beyond.  He added that there were huge concerns as regards the development of unallocated land within the CDP for a Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).  He noted that after careful consideration, following representations from local residents, visits to residents directly affected, public meetings, and a meeting with the developer, the Parish Council formally objected to the application.  Parish Councillor P Conway explained that the Parish Council believed there were strong grounds for the Committee, in exercising their judgement, to reject the application.  He noted that the three Local County Councillors were also in objection to the application, with written statements to be read out on their behalf in due course.


Parish Councillor P Conway noted that the Parish Council contended that the application was in contravention of several existing policies within the CDP, particularly Policy 16.2 relating to PBSAs and Policies 6 and 33 relating to the environment.  He added that the Parish Council felt there was material reasons for rejection in respect of policies covering heritage, CDP Policies 29 and 44, as supported by internal consultees and explained by the Senior Planning Officer within his presentation.  Parish Councillor P Conway referred to the NPPF, Part 5 covering the supply of homes, Part 8 - promoting healthy and safe communities, and Part 11 - making effective use of land, and explained the Parish Council believed those also represented valid grounds for the application to be rejected.  He noted other speakers would be making similar arguments and he thanked the Senior Planning Officer for the fair summary of the other objections received.


Parish Councillor P Conway explained that CDP Policy 16.2 was crucial and that paragraphs 62 to 73 of the Officer’s report justified the acceptance, however, as stated earlier, it was a matter of judgement.  He added that policy had to demonstrate need and he noted that it was the Parish Council’s view that it was not proven by the applicant.  He noted that while the applicant had contacted the University, there was no mention of a response to that approach within the report.  He continued, noting that from the available evidence there was no shortage of student accommodation in Durham and, as one objector had stated in writing ‘this is explicitly stated on the University’s website’. 

Parish Councillor P Conway noted that recent years had seen a significant number of PBSAs in the Belmont and Gilesgate area and it was understood there were sufficient voids to accommodate the student numbers contained within the University’s Business Plan up to 2027.  He added that, at the very least, there needed to be an independent assessment as the University had not commented on this particular issue, suggesting that one might say a ‘PBSA VAR’ was needed.  He noted that there was demonstrable need for affordable housing for the elderly and low-income families, particularly referenced in the CDP at pages 102-104.


Parish Councillor P Conway explained that it was appreciated that the application before Members was for a PBSA and there was a need to focus on material considerations relevant to the application, however, NPPF Parts 5, 8 and 11, the supply of homes, promoting healthy and safe communities, and making effective use of land were pertinent.  He noted that Part 5 discussed the availability of land in order to meet need and he reiterated that the application site was unallocated land for housing.  He added that as it was likely to become available it could be used for affordable, low-rise housing appropriate for the needs of the elderly and low-income families.  He added that Part 8 covered an integrated approach to housing and local facilities and noted Part 11 stressed the need for the effective use of land in meeting the demonstrable need for homes.  He reiterated ‘homes’, not ‘bedsits’ occupied for 30 weeks of the year, with residents that were naturally transitory and understandably not focussed on integrating with the community.  Parish Councillor P Conway explained that ‘homes’ implied a strong commitment, for 52 weeks of the year and being in the community.  He added that a house or a bedsit was not a home.


Parish Councillor P Conway noted that for 10 years he had been a trustee of Durham Action on Single Housing, adding he could testify to waiting lists for affordable housing, with both young people on low-income in the city and often bereaved senior citizens in need of a bungalow, which in turn could release a family home for just that purpose.  He explained that, when he was Chair of the Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP) some years ago, the AAP had conducted a review of the housing need in the city as it was an overwhelming priority for residents expressed through surveys and public meetings.  He explained that the review involved estate agents, social housing providers, developers, Durham County Council, Durham University and local people.  He noted that the group produced a short report, and he believed the report still had currency.  He added that the key messages, agreed by all AAP partners were for appropriately designed housing for the elderly and affordable accommodation for low-income families, not additional student accommodation.   



Parish Councillor P Conway noted that he had had the privilege to serve as County Councillor for the Belmont division for four years and he explained that in that time only six units for senior citizens had been produced and he had lost count of the number of PBSAs and HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) that had been given approval, he believed approaching around 1,000.  He noted that, in the meanwhile, the waiting list at Durham Single Action on Housing and other social housing providers continued to grow.  Parish Councillor P Conway noted that the applicant had stated that after discussions with social housing providers the site was considered too small and constrained for it to be a potential affordable housing site.  He explained Belmont Parish Council contested that judgement as the providers approached were large-scale operations, carrying not inconsiderable overheads, and therefore might be of that view.


Parish Councillor P Conway explained that smaller registered providers, if approached, would be interested.  He gave an example in respect to Durham Action on Single Housing recently securing planning permission for four affordable units on a site far smaller, around five percent the size of the application being considered by Committee.  He explained that Durham Action on Single Housing were collaborating with Homes England and Durham County Council and suggested that the applicant should have cast their net wider. 


Parish Councillor P Conway noted the unallocated site, adjacent to Mill House Court, would be ideally suited for low-rise housing for the elderly, those wishing to downsize and added that in discussions with residents in the area such an application would be welcomed.  He added that residents were not happy with the prospect of a three and four storey building facing their living rooms.  He noted that therefore one must have agreement with the Inspector who, when assessing the CDP, had stated ‘the Plan therefore identifies sufficient opportunities for residential accommodation to meet the expected increase in students to 2027’.  Parish Councillor P Conway noted the Inspector went on to state, as regards unallocated land within the CDP, that ‘for this land it is important that the right type of accommodation is provided and scarce land in the city is not subject to speculative development that may be ultimately unsustainable’.  Parish Councillor P Conway noted that, given the state of the market, there could be more voids in terms of bedsits and while possibly appropriate for short-term use during term-time, they were not sustainable in terms of space and facilities for people wishing to have a home. 


Parish Councillor P Conway noted he could continue as regards the application failing to meet other policies in the CDP, however, he wished to comment on the NPPF Guidance which stated, ‘All things being equal, provided that economic, social and environmental objective were met, sustainable development should be permitted’. 

He explained that, looking at ‘economic’ first, that it was suggested that jobs would be created however that would be true for the construction industry no matter which house type was built on the site.  He added that it was suggested that 100 students on site for 30 weeks a year would help the local economy.  He asked if anyone would believe that the business model adopted by a large outlet on Dragonville Retail Park would be waiting with bated breath for arrival of 100 students for 30 weeks of the year.  Parish Councillor P Conway noted that since the arrival of PBSAs in the Belmont and Gilesgate area, local businesses, hairdressers, pubs and convenience corner shops had not, from his investigations, shown a significant student clientele.  He added that it had been a while since he had lived as student in Durham, however, he understood that students’ social life was focussed on college and union. 


Parish Councillor P Conway noted that the applicant suggested that allowing the PBSA would help save the Hippodrome at Bishop Auckland.  He added that was surely a red herring as whether or not the application was accepted, the landowner and operator at Bishop Auckland would make commercial judgements in respect of business in that town.  He noted the other speakers would note as regards construction and design matters, safe environments for residents, transport and other matters.  He noted in respect of the street scene, the application was not particularly sympathetic with the surrounding area.  He added that those matters were important for the community’s future health, social and cultural wellbeing, with the application not fulfilling the wider social objective.


In looking at the environmental objective within the NPPF, Parish Councillor P Conway explained that the Parish Council could see little evidence that the application was adapted for climate change and the green agenda Durham County Council was proud to champion.  He noted that the Parish Council recognised that planning decisions were an art, not a science, requiring considered judgement.  He explained the Parish Council believed the application represented the wrong development for a site that could contribute significantly to the lives of residents now and in the future.  He added that if the application were granted, it could effectively sterilise the site for the next 100 years. 


He noted that nationally there was conjecture as regards the role and purpose of planning committees, it being noted in several quarters that committees were not helpful to developers.  Parish Councillor P Conway noted that in a democracy, residents surely had the right to have their views considered by their elected representatives.  He noted that while the majority of residents in Belmont recognised that change on the site was inevitable, the proposal put before Members was ‘not the change’. 


He noted the Parish Council believed there were material planning grounds for rejection based on CDP Policies 16.2, 6 and 13 and that the Parish Council did not believe the application satisfied NPPF Parts 5, 8 and 11 and failed to meet the overriding economic, social and environmental objectives.  Parish Councillor P Conway concluded by reiterating that the Parish Council, on behalf of its residents, would respectfully ask the Committee to exercise their judgement, and recommended that the application be rejected. 


The Chair thanked Parish Councillor P Conway and asked the Committee Services Officer to read out statements on behalf of the Local Members, Councillors E Mavin, L Mavin and C Fletcher who were unable to attend the Committee.


The statement received from Councillors E Mavin and L Mavin was as follows:


“As County Councillors for Belmont ward, Eric and Lesley Mavin wish to object to the proposals for the following reasons:


     We feel the development fails to meet the requirements of Policy 16(2) of the County Durham Plan.

     We consider that the application does not identify a genuine need for additional student accommodation of this type, in this location.

     The proposal would result in the loss of a bingo hall which is a much-loved leisure and tourist facility for the local community.

     The proposed development does not reflect the layout, character, scale, and appearance of the local area in accordance with policy 29 of the CDP

     The development would impact upon the amenities of surrounding residents, with regard to overshadowing and disturbance from future residents

     We believe the site should be used for affordable housing

     We are concerned about the impact on local residents, many who are elderly, through disturbance through the movement of students coming to and from the site.


The statement received from Councillor C Fletcher was as follows:


As a local county councillor, and Vice-Chair of Belmont Parish Council I have listened to many views of local residents and businesses in this area. I am sorry I can’t be with you today as I am isolating due to Covid.


Over the past year I have attended at least five public meetings where the development has been discussed and have also met with the developers with Belmont Parish Councillors. Along with residents I have considered the plans and seen the adaptations.


The Planning application has received many letters from individuals, the MP Mary Foy and local representative bodies and I will not take time to repeat them. They echo the views of the majority of residents in the area. Along with them I oppose this application.


I believe this application is in contravention to CDP Policy 16.2: Purpose-Built Student Accommodation and cannot prove identification of need.


Residents are very concerned that we do not need additional Purpose Built Student Accommodation in Gilesgate.


We already have Ernest Pace, Magdalene Heights, DLI studios and a growing percentage of HMOs in the residential housing stock. The University has not identified need for additional student accommodation.  We don’t need additional space used to provide accommodation that will sit empty for long periods during student holidays. Residents consider it to be purely a development to make money, not meet any identified local need.


There isn’t sufficient parking spaces and already there is a lack of parking for residents. There is potential for conflict in the community during term time.


We do have a need for housing, particularly affordable housing for people who live in Gilesgate throughout the year. This land could be used for a block of flats to provide homes for single people, older people or those requiring supportive housing. 


The community is also crying out for accessible community space which will be destroyed by this development.


Residents feel this development does nothing to meet local need.


The physical design of the building is too large, too imposing, and in no way respects the character of the local environment around it. It looks like a design made up in an architect’s office without any reference to Gilesgate and then literally slotted into place to fit the footprint.


A resident from Lantern Close flats next door told me “when I open my bedroom curtains in the morning all I will see is a brick wall”. This is a sad inditement of modern architecture to do this to existing residents.


Older people in the bungalows who have lounges at the back will spend their day looking up at a four storey block that is empty for many weeks during the year.


Residents feel that the developers have failed to demonstrate any passion for the development in the design or approach.

There is no evidence that this development will bring socio-economic benefit to the community. The Application claims it will create employment. But most likely part time, term time cleaners at the most. The Bingo hall employed 11 staff. This doesn’t sound like a fair exchange.


Local residents care about climate change and sustainability. We want to see the seven Principles of Sustainable Construction must be considered when it comes to the earliest stages, particularly in relation to durability (is this going to be a future eyesore?), energy efficiency and Sustainable building materials.


If this application is to be approved residents want to see shrubs and seating in the open air. We would like to see a green roof for insulation and solar panels and wind energy sources to reduce the buildings carbon footprint.


We ask they use local suppliers close to the worksite and support our local businesses. Such as the cement factory located Renny’s Lane.


Can they integrate modern materials such as Artevia Boreal, a decorative concrete which at night emits a glow and helps minimize the needs for street lights by absorbing the radiation of the day light, releasing it as artificial light. This solution illuminates patios, cycle paths, walkways and squares, looking like natural aggregates during the day. Easy to place and maintain, Artevia Boreal is made with recycled materials.


As local county councillor I object to this application and would prefer the land was used for affordable housing or a community facility. 


Thank you.


The Chair thanked the Committee Services Officer and asked Mr John Ashby, speaking on behalf of the City of Durham Trust to speak in relation to the application.


Mr J Ashby thanked the Chair and explained that County Durham Plan Policy 16.2(a) required that proposals such as this had to demonstrate that there was a need for additional student accommodation of this type, in this location.  He noted that the University Masterplan was to grow to 21,500 students in 2026/27.  He informed the Committee that the University already had 22,220 students, more than the Masterplan target for five years’ time, and added that there was no need for yet more student accommodation.


He explained that the Inspector, in approving the CDP said, “The Plan does, therefore, identify sufficient opportunities for residential accommodation to meet the expected increase in student numbers up to 2027.”


Mr J Ashby noted the City of Durham Trust concluded that the applicant had failed the requirements of Policy 16.2(a) and therefore the Trust asked that the Committee refuse the application.


The Chair thanked Mr J Ashby and asked Mr Richard Hornby, representing the Gilesgate Residents’ Association (GRA), to speak in relation to the application.


Mr R Hornby explained that issues relating to PBSAs in Gilesgate were broadly covered by Policy 16.2(a) of the CDP and he noted he would highlight some areas of significance for the Committee.  He noted that due to the time constraints he could not provide input on every issue, however, they were covered within the written submission that Members had received, adding he would be happy to take questions from Members.


Mr R Hornby noted that Policy 16.2(a) concerned need and added that the City of Durham Trust had presented evidence that there was not need for further student accommodation in Durham, with the GRA agreeing with the Trust’s findings.  He explained that Section 5.141 of the CDP stated that developers should demonstrate what specific need a proposal was aimed at, and why that meet was currently unmet.  Mr R Hornby noted the current application did not do that.


Mr R Hornby explained that regrettably the GRA had to agree with the developer that the site was a good development opportunity and that a bingo use may not be sustainable long term.  He added that, even with that acknowledgement, the application was clearly the wrong development for the site, with affordable housing being a much better solution.  He noted that Part 11 of the NPPF stated that planning policies and decisions should promote an effective use of land in meeting the need for homes and other uses.  He added that the emphasis was clearly on homes, front and centre.


Mr R Hornby noted that Gilesgate was an area with an extremely high demand for homes for elderly and vulnerable residents and, as the application site was in a residential area, the site should be considered for housing first, with the developer not having made any case for why the site would be unsuitable for conventional housing, especially when there was a shortage in the area.


Mr R Hornby noted that care needed to be taken to only make decisions based upon the plans presented, noting that developer had suggested that some of the space could be set aside for community use, however, that was not present within any of the plans submitted or within a proposed condition within the application.  He added it could not be considered relevant if not subsequently included and noted the same was true of the financial viability of the existing development.

Mr R Hornby noted that, in terms of the internal design and layout of the proposed development, a consultation response stated that the proposals had ‘…not been designed with student health and wellbeing in mind’.  He noted that one needed to use such new developments to act as a beacon for the future and therefore such comments should be at the forefront of concerns. 


He noted that residents were very concerned as regards parking and cycling facilities, with the road on which the development sat being the main route for four local schools and the entrance, out of an archway, across a road opposite a pedestrian crossing immediately placed those accessing the development in conflict with other road users in a limited visibility situation.  Mr R Hornby noted that furthermore the development needed to have safe cycling provision to the University’s Leazes Road site, adding that was non-existent.  He explained that a report to the City of Durham Parish Council had identified that the opportunity as sub-standard and dangerous, with no space to provide a safe level of service for cycling.


Mr R Hornby noted that residents had concerns relating to the safety and security of the proposed student residents and neighbouring residents to the development.  He noted that, in the unfortunate event that the Committee were minded to approved the application, the GRA noted that one must see a management plan be placed as a condition on the application, to be approved by the Committee before work could commence. 


Mr R Hornby noted that one could not underestimate the impact of the design of the proposals on the residents of Mill House Court and Lantern Court and the GRA disagreed in respect of the arguments made in terms of light.  He added that the GRA supported the comments made by the Council’s Design and Conservation Officer regarding the contemporary design and building being at odds with the style, size and vernacular of the area.  Mr R Hornby noted CDP Policy 33 stated that plans must demonstrate a commitment to low carbon technologies and carbon mitigation.  He noted that the plans submitted did not seem to do so, which seemed a major shortfall.


Mr R Hornby noted that, in conclusion, GRA were of the opinion that the plans before Committee were in contradiction with a number of local and national planning policies, CDP Policies 16.2, 6, 29, 33 and 44, NPPF Part 8 and 11 and therefore strongly recommended that the Committee make a positive decision for the area and reject the plans.


The Chair thanked Mr R Hornby and asked Mr Mark Ketley, Agent for the applicant to speak in support of the application.


Mr M Ketley thanked the Chair and Committee and noted he acted on behalf of Durham Grove Limited and Majestic Bingo, the applicants, and worked for BH Planning and Design Consultancy, based in Newcastle.


Mr M Ketley explained that he would make four points, relating to the need for a PBSA, the scale and impact on neighbouring residents, the regeneration benefits that would arise from the scheme, and the comments that had been made in terms of alternative use for the site.  He commended the Senior Planning Officer as regards his handling of the planning application and his thorough and positive report as set out with agenda papers, and noted he naturally endorsed the recommendation for approval. 


Mr M Ketley noted that, in terms of need, the main driver was the University’s growth strategy and noted a previous speaker had explained the University’s ambition to grow to 21,500 students by 2027.  He added that based on information provided, current student numbers were 19,368 and not the 22,000 figure as quoted by the objector.  He noted that based on that need, there was a requirement for an additional 3,600 bedspaces by 2027 and explained that, on behalf of the applicants, three independent reports had been prepared which demonstrated the need for those 3,600 bedspaces.  He noted the Senior Planning Officer, within his presentation, had explained it was accepted by Officers and therefore the application complied with CDP Policy 16.  Mr M Ketley explained that the shortfall in bedspaces was already starting to bite, it having been well documented in the press in the autumn of 2021 in terms of payments being offered by the University to students to defer placements due to oversubscription.


Mr M Ketley noted the references to CDP allocations by the objectors and noted that in the long term they may or may not satisfy the shortfall in bedspaces, however, the point was there was no planning certainty any of the planning allocations within the CDP would be delivered, especially by 2027.  He noted the scheme proposed was sizable at 128 units, though only represented four percent of the 3,600 bedspace shortfall.  He added the scheme would make a meaningful contribution to that shortfall, however, ultimately it was only scratching the surface in terms of the overall need. 


In respect of scale and impact on neighbouring residents, Mr M Ketley noted the scheme started out as a five storey development with 180 bedspaces, the context on which pre-application enquiries were made over a year ago.  He noted the applicants had worked with Planning Officers to overcome concerns as regards the scale of the scheme and so the impact upon the bungalows to the north of the site.  He added the scale had been significantly reduced to a part three, part four storey scheme of 128 units.  He noted that represented a significant compromise on behalf of the applicants, however, the protection of residents’ amenity, in particular for those bungalows, had been highlighted as a key concern. 

In reference to the regeneration benefits of the proposal, Mr M Ketley explained that the development of the site and the benefits that it would bring carried significant positive weight and he felt Members would struggle to conclude otherwise.  He noted that objectors had made reference to the current use as a bingo hall being much loved, however, fundamentally it was not a well-used facility.  He added that Majestic Bingo had provided evidence to Officers that attendances to the bingo hall pre-COVID-19 were poor and had worsened over the pandemic. 


Mr M Ketley noted that the business was not viable as an ongoing concern and inevitably it would close, with the application before Members offering the opportunity to secure a new chapter in the life of the site and secure the regenerative benefits for the local community.  He noted the suggestions from the objectors as regards what they thought of as better uses for the site and the potential for affordable housing.  He explained that Members had to consider the application before them, with alternative uses not being material planning considerations.  Notwithstanding, Mr M Ketley noted that the options around affordable housing had been explored with three providers, Karbon Homes, Believe Housing and the Addison Group, all of which had responded to note the site was too small to be commercially viable from an affordable housing perspective and therefore that opportunity was simply not available.


Mr M Ketley concluded by noting that Members were respectfully asked to approve the application in its current form as it would deliver much needed student accommodation, addressing in part the projected shortfall, and was a sustainable location for that type of facility.


The Chair thanked Mr M Ketley and asked Officers to respond to the points raised by the speakers, including the student numbers as referred to by objectors and the Agent for the applicant.


The Area Team Leader (Central and East) noted the figures referred to by Mr J Ashby appeared to be more up-to-date and from the latest census data from the University, December 2021.  Mr J Ashby explained that he had provided the Senior Planning Officer with e-mail correspondence from the University which set out the December 2021 count.  He noted the increase in figures being due to the A-Level fiasco, not the University’s fault and reiterated that the University had paid some students to defer their places for a year as the University did not have the teaching space.  The Area Team Leader (Central and East) noted the difficulty for Members’ consideration was that the assessment work carried out by the applicants, on which the Officers report was based upon, did not reflect that current figure from the University.  She added that the University had not responded in terms of consultation on the application. 

The Chair asked for advice from Planning Officers and the Solicitor in terms of a potential deferral of the application, given the discrepancy between the two sets of figures.  The Area Team Leader (Central and East) noted that in terms of need there were potentially two considerations, a purely quantitative need in terms of the number of bedspaces and the needs of the University, and a qualitative choice.  She added that it was recognised that PBSAs can increase choice as an alternative to HMOs and there were locational differences across the city as to where students would want to be accommodated.  She noted that if Members felt that quantitative assessment was something on which they wished to be updated then potentially they would need to defer the application, however, if Members were happy to proceed on the basis of the information heard and the qualitative considerations, then the application could be considered today.


The Chair thanked the Area Team Leader (Central and East) and asked the Committee for their comments and questions.


Councillor C Marshall thanked the speakers for their information which he noted was useful for Members in making their decision.  He noted the wider issue, not one for the current application to address, of having a first class University in the city where clearly there were issues in terms of how the University chose to grow and where students coming into Durham chose to live.  He added he felt the Committee was in a difficult position and noted many discussions with Mr J Ashby and Parish Councillor P Conway over the years in terms of the need to agree with the University an accommodation strategy addressing how students would embed themselves into the community.  He noted there was clearly an amount of work to be done and that it sat outside of the remit of the Committee.  He added that Members had to look at the application based upon its planning merits.  Councillor C Marshall noted he would write to the Leader of the Council following the meeting as regards a cross-party group to look at the issues of accommodation and how students interacted with communities across Durham. 


Councillor C Marshall noted he had listened to all the comments from speakers and the objections made.  He noted there were issues in terms of the viability of an old building and he understood, from examples in his own area, the affinity that communities had to such buildings.  He added that he also understood when those old buildings close and began to deteriorate, how difficult it could be to get the right type of development for those sites to please everyone within a community.  He noted the issue therefore would come down to planning policy, adding he felt there was a risk of having a derelict building that would attract anti-social behaviour.  He noted he had driven past the building in question on several occasions and added that the issue of viability was a risk for the developer and noted, as he understood, no public money being used for the scheme. 

Councillor C Marshall noted, after careful consideration, he would propose the application be approved as per the Officer’s recommendation, given that such managed accommodation, rather than more HMOs across the city, was his preferred choice, adding the importance of the point raised relating to a management plan.


Councillor J Atkinson noted the difference in the reported student numbers and noted he felt it may be necessary to defer.


Councillor LA Holmes noted he agreed with Councillor C Marshall as regards the issue of viability being for the applicant, and that any refusal or deferral may lead to the risk of the building becoming empty and derelict, attracting anti-social behaviour and the issues associated with that.  He seconded the motion for approval, as per the Officer’s recommendation.


Councillor K Shaw noted all would be aware of the impact of a derelict building within a community, noting he had worked for over 18 years to find a solution for a derelict building in his own community adding that ‘a bird in the hand was worth far more than two in the bush’.  He noted the growing importance of the University and that the demand for accommodation would need to be met.  He noted Members had discussed many times the impact of students, both positive and negative, and reiterated that there was a need to provide for not just the current student population but also for the growing need.  He noted the proposals offered a solution to a problem and provided a benefit.  He noted the eloquent presentation from the Parish Council, however, the Committee could not consider alternative uses for the site, rather the application that was before Members.  He noted there was also as significant financial contribution of over £114,000 for the local electoral division.  He noted that also in providing specialist PBSA, that also helped to take away some of the pressure in terms of HMOs, helping to protect family homes.  He explained he had previously worked for four years as the Cabinet Member for Housing and noted the Housing Strategy had targeted delivery plans which identified need and matched it with supply.  He noted with his knowledge and the information provided to the Committee he was comfortable in terms of understanding that the site was not viable as a small housing development.  He noted, having considered the matter in detail, he would support the motion for approval.


Councillor D Brown noted he had attended the site visit and listened carefully to the debate.  He added he had passed the building several times and noted that, in its heyday in 1938 when it was built, it would have been very good, originally as a cinema, then later as a bingo hall.  He noted the decline of such use, hastened by the pandemic, but also of the move to a more technological age, with many playing bingo via an app and being able to play from within their own home. 

He suggested that it may be better to demolish the building and noted the issues raised in terms of potential alternative uses for the site.  He noted the many discussions at Committee relating to HMOs and the migration of students out from the more traditional student parts of the city centre into the suburbs.  He added that the proposals may help stop the migration further out and allow for properties to remain as family homes as students would be concentrated within the specialist accommodation.


The Chair noted his own experience as regards HMOs was that they were not freed up for use as family homes by the expansion of PBSAs, that being in part due to the expansion of the University.  He asked if a management plan was something that could be included as part of the conditions, should Members be minded to approve the application.


The Senior Planning Officer noted that Condition 16 did require, prior to first occupation, a detailed management strategy plan to include, but not be limited to, details of parking, a residents’ charter and building security measures.  He noted reference to ‘dwelling’ would also need to be amended should Members be minded to approve the application.  He reiterated that there would be an addition to Condition 16 to include public community use.  He noted for clarity that the building on the site was currently occupied and was not derelict.


Councillor C Marshall proposed that the application be approved, he was seconded by Councillor LA Holmes.


Upon a vote being taken it was:




That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions and Section 106 Legal Agreement as set out within the report, with amendment to Condition 16 relating to the inclusion of community use within the management plan and a correction in relation to the reference to ‘dwelling’.


Supporting documents: