Student Halls

Two separate developers are bringing forward proposals for large student halls in the Selly Oak Village area. CP4SO are opposed to both these developments. You can find out why below.

Triangle Site: Hines are proposing a 1191 room hall of residence on the Triangle Site (old Sainsbury's). 

You can  view the plans and make formal comments for consideration by the Planning Committee here using planning reference 2020/01795/PA. 

Or Click HERE to go straight to the comments page for this application.

Or you can send written comments to Planning and Development, PO Box 28, Birmingham B1 1TU quoting the same planing reference number. Comments are due by 9th April 2020.

Here are some points for consideration in your comments.

Student Demand: TP33 in the Birmingham Development Plan demands that there is a demonstrated need for student residences. Figures provided by the developers on student demand are misleading. Birmingham City Council has produced a report confirming that there is NO shortage of student bed-spaces across the city including all accommodation types. Further no future shortage is projected.  The developers assume that all students not living with parents want to live in purpose built halls. This is plainly not the case. Even if this were true the figures provided by the Developers don't match those produced by BCC even for this highly unlikely scenario. BCC estimates that there would be a need for around additional 8000 bed-spaces assuming that NO student lived in a rented house. This upper bound figure is never likely to be realized, there will always be students who wish to rent houses.

Threat to community. In the context of an OVERSUPPLY of student housing across all sectors this proposal could result in the closure of 170-200 HMOs. This could be seen as a positive if there were any evidence that these HMOs will revert to family housing. Unfortunately the majority of HMOs in Selly Oak have had unsympathetic conversions and rents are too high for families. We are already seeing HMOs converting to Supported Housing which offer landlords high government subsidies. Supported Housing mixes ex-offenders with those with social issues such as substance abuse which is a toxic mix in itself and not suitable in an area of high student density. There is evidence that other local authorities are moving clients into Supported Housing in Birmingham. Is Selly Oak to bear the burden of Social Housing for the whole country?

Scale and mass: TP33 of the BDP says that "the scale, massing and architecture of the development should be appropriate for the location". This is a very large development on quite a small site. The will be several blocks about 10 storeys and a tower block rising to 16 storeys at the junction of Harborne Lane and Chapel Lane. The density of occupation, scale and massing of the development are all incredibly high compared to typical university owned halls of residence. 

Despite efforts to protect Rebecca Drive and Cherry Oak School from overlooking the development will still overbear on those houses and the School. The hall will have a very dominated presence for those living in Rebecca Drive.

Distance from University. TP33 in the BDP demands that halls of residence be very well located to the university that it serves. The developers claim that the development is a 15 minute walk from the University of Birmingham. However, according to Google Maps this is the time taken from the entrance to the development to the edge of campus. The campus is large so a central student facility is a more suitable location against which to judge walking distances. The walking time from the development entrance to the main Library will be 19 minutes. If the time taken to get from a room within the development is added on, a typical journey time could be as long as 25-30 minutes. This exceeds the recommendation in TP33. The City Council has recently rejected proposals for halls of residence that were only 15 minutes walk from their target university.

Gated community: TP33 of the BDP says that student developments should "not have an unacceptable impact on the local neighbourhood and residential amenity". Apart from 3 small facilities the site will be closed the public with not pedestrian access across the site. It does little to enhance public amenity.

Community Spaces: There will be a cafe, community room and a flexible unit which will be open to the public. Community room - there is not actually a shortage of meeting spaces in Selly Oak with sense and our many churches all offering community meeting spaces and film projection facilities. Cafe - there is also no shortage of cafes in Selly Oak including multiple Costas, Starbucks, Sense and many independents. Flexible Unit - This unit has no clear use or tenant. It may just remain empty like the shops on the opposite side of the Bristol Rd.

Parking: There will be no on-site parking except for disabled. The developers have promised a parking ban but we know from other developments that these don't work. If approved BCC must apply a planning condition requiring the owners to police this parking ban or else face closure.


Elliot Rd: Watkin Jones are proposing a 526 room hall of residence on Elliot Rd (Just behind Lookers garage). 

Thanks to public pressure the maximum height and total number of bedrooms has been reduced since the plans were first presented to the public. Comments on this application are now closed and we are waiting for the application to be heard by the planning committee.

You can read our concerns regarding this development here.


Why do CP4SO oppose these developments?
Both developers claim that their provision will reduce the demand for Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in Selly Oak / Bournbrook and improve derelict brown field sites by providing sustainable student housing to meet the demands of students at the University of Birmingham. Both note that universities in the city only provide accommodation in halls of residence for a fraction of their students.

We note the following. 
  • No student in the city is currently homeless. 
  • Demographic and economic changes suggest that the student population is unlikely to increase in the medium term.
  • There are already clear signs of falling demand for HMOs.
  • Therefore these 1700 new student bedrooms will either:
  1. Be filled by students who would otherwise be living in existing HMOs in Selly Oak (emptying existing rather than preventing new HMOs) or,
  2. Pull-in students from other universities in the city who might otherwise have lived in HMOs in Erdington, Aston and other areas to the north of the city.
  • It is highly unlikely that existing HMOs will revert to family accommodation. Landlords used to high student rents will not be willing to reduce their income by letting to families or selling up, and in any case many HMOs have had unsympathetic conversions leaving no garden space.
  • We are already seeing student HMOs being converted to Supported Housing. Supported Houses are essentially mini hostels for the homeless. Rent and fees for additional support is paid direct to the landlord. It is a very lucrative business. Landlords are supposed to provide support to enable adults with complex needs (such as addiction, mental health and learning disability) to find permanent accommodation and employment. In practice very little if any of the promised support is provided to these individuals who are essentially left to fend for themselves in overcrowded accommodation.
  • 1700 Bedrooms could empty around 300 of the area's 1400 HMOs.
  • We do not think it good for anyone concerned to a have a high concentration of student houses mixed in with a high concentration of Supported Housing.
  • In any case, Bournbrook is already saturated with HMOs and the Article 4 declaration for Selly Oak and Harborne protects the remaining parts of the district from increased HMO density.
  • Under the alternative scenario that these halls pull in students from other parts of the city Selly Oak will increasingly become "The Student Village" for the whole of Birmingham. Shops and facilities at the upper end of the high street will become increasingly student focused and this will pull in yet more students from across the city to fill the released capacity in HMOs. 
  • We already see large numbers of students from Aston University and Birmingham City University using the Cross City Line and 61/63 bus routes.