Wednesday 22 January 2020

Selly Oak residents dismayed by mammoth student halls

Media Release

Local residents in Selly Oak have expressed dismay over proposals for a total of 1700 bedrooms in two new student halls in the centre of Selly Oak. Over 250 local residents have signed a petition against the proposals which would see around 1200 rooms in a series of tower blocks on the iconic Selly Oak Triangle site and a 526 room block on Elliott Rd. These two separate plans have been brought forward by developers Hines, and Watkin Jones respectively.

These proposals for two gated student communities with negligible car parking have been made despite a recent report by Birmingham City Council showing that there is a surplus of student housing in the city when all types of student housing are considered.  While most people agree that students have a net positive impact on the city, there is a need to spread local negative impacts more widely and to provide a mix of accommodation types to increase student choice.

Local residents in Selly Oak feel that their needs are not considered in the planning process. They are excluded from the gated communities which offer no community facilities and block pedestrian routes. Guarantees that students in these developments will not bring cars to the area are largely unenforceable leading to congested local streets. The spreading student culture leaves the area dead during the summer months. Student Accommodation generates very little revenue for the council – There is no requirement for student developments to pay council tax or business rates. Nor do they have to contribute to providing “affordable housing” as other local housing developments do. Yet, these developments generate large demands for waste collection and other services.  In the case of the Hines development on the Selly Oak Triangle massive tower blocks will over-shadow residential housing and a local special school.

Residents are also very apprehensive about the future of local terraced houses which may be left empty if students transfer to purpose built accommodation. Due to unsympathetic conversions, very few of these properties are suitable for family occupation and rents in them are far too high for families. Use as Supported Housing by the Probation Service and those with acute social needs such as substance abuse seems more likely as this type of accommodation attracts high government subsidies. There is a risk that Selly Oak may become the location of choice for councils all over the country struggling to find Supported Housing.  Many councils across the country already send tenants to be housed in Birmingham, a trend that is only expected to increase.

Notes to editors The Community Partnership for Selly Oak is a federation of local residents groups which seeks genuine regeneration for the Selly Oak district.

A report entitled “Student accommodation supply and demand” was accepted by the Birmingham City Council Planning Committee on 21 November 2019. This report states that once students living at home have been accounted for the total demand for student rented accommodation in the city is 36,218 while the estimated number of bedrooms available to rent in all forms of accommodation is 43,281