CONTENTIOUS plans for more student accommodation in Leamington are set for the go-ahead despite staunch opposition.
Members of Warwick District Council’s Planning Committee have been recommended to grant plans for the demolition of existing buildings in Althorpe Street and “the erection of a mixed-use scheme comprising commercial floorspace and purpose-built student accommodation” when they meet on Tuesday (February 28).
This is despite the proposal attracting opposition from across the town including Leamington Town Council and Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western.
Top of the list of concerns are there already being enough student accommodation in the town and fears for the future of the businesses currently based on site.
The student accommodation would be in three buildings of up to six storeys high with a total of 328 student bed spaces, divided into 18 HMO’s and 230 individual self-contained studios. There will also be communal areas such as lounges and dedicated study spaces.
The Althorpe Street site currently comprises a range of trade counters, workshops and industrial buildings and is designated in the Local Plan as a Protected Town Centre Employment Area. Businesses currently operating on the proposed development site will be relocated, it is promised.
A previous application for student accommodation was refused back in 2020, and another application was withdrawn in 2019.
The former BT premises immediately adjoining the proposed site has recently been redeveloped for student accommodation consisting of a four-storey block containing 187 student bed spaces.
Leamington Town Council has objected to the proposal on the grounds it is out of keeping with the surrounding properties in terms of scale and height, the removal of trees reduces biodivesity, there is inadequate car and cycle parking and concern about support for the relocation of existing businesses from the site.
MP Matt Western has also formally objected to the proposal chiefly because the land is protected in Warwick District Council’s Local Plan as employment land.
He said: “Currently, there are several businesses operating in this part of Althorpe Street, who would be displaced by this application – this would mean the loss of 75 jobs. The application claims that alternative premises have been secured for these businesses. Having spoken with the businesses, it is clear this is not the case.
“One of the reasons the previous application on this site was rejected was because the redevelopment for a student-led development would result in a significant net loss of ‘B’ Class floorspace on a well occupied industrial area and would result in the displacement of a range of businesses and associated employment. I do not see how this updated application changes that in any way. The co-working space offered by this application seems poorly thought through, and only serves as a means to push this application through.
“Further, the application breaches the council’s policy on HMOs, which states there should not be more than 10 per cent of HMOs in a radius of 100 yards. This application would take it to 32 per cent.”
There have been 177 letters of objection from residents. Concerns range from there being a great deal of student accommodation in Leamington – to the point “the proportion of students to residents is becoming unbalanced” to the six storey building being intrusive and dominating the skyline.
There have been three letters of support for more student accommodation.
Planning officers are recommending the planning committee grant the proposal on the basis “it seeks to retain commercial uses” on an existing Town Centre Employment Site.