Construction of a controversial student accommodation development in Portswood is set to begin in the next few months.
The 435 bedroom development, which will be built on the site of a former bus depot near the Sainsbury’s superstore, has been met with fierce opposition by local residents’ groups.
It will be the second project of its type to be built by Vita Student, which already owns a similar block of studio flats at Richmond House on Terminus Terrace in the city centre. Building work will begin in January.
The project is substantially larger than the original plans presented to Southampton City Council and the public last year, which proposed a development of 349 bedrooms.
The Portswood Road site will offer a number of communal facilities, including dining areas, a movie room and a large ‘social hub’.
Local residents have voiced concerns about the scale of the development and how different it is to the original proposal.
David Wardell, Vice-Chair of Portswood Central Residents’ Association, told the Daily Echo that the prospect of another large student development meant the area risked becoming a ‘student ghetto’.
He added that although he had ‘no objection’ to students, the project was a massive departure from the original proposal for the site, which included family accomodation and a doctor’s surgery.
Jerry Gillen, Vice-Chair of Highfield Resident’s Association, said that the organisation would strongly oppose the scheme if a new planning application is required, given 40% of the population of Portswood is already students. He commented:
‘Portswood already has more houses of multiple occupation than any other area in the city. It affects the character and amenity of the area.
It encourages the wrong type of businesses – there are more take-away outlets and off-licences than we could ever need. It causes late-night nuisances and bad behaviour – it is the last thing we needed.
One has to ask why the council did not apply a legal condition to ensure family homes were included on that site, which were a part of the original application’
Portswood Councillor, Paul O’Neill, admitted he would have preferred the construction of social housing on the site, and warned that measures may have to be taken to ensure there is still sufficient parking for residents if students bring cars to the area.
Lee McLean, General Manager at Vita Student, told the Echo the project would help meet the ‘ever growing demand’ for high end student housing:
‘The location of Portswood Road is exceptional and this news is a significant milestone for our business.
Our confidence to open a second residence in the city reflects the huge demand for Vita Student’s unique product and position in the market.
We’re committed to helping our residents feel right at home here and that job is made so much easier by the warm and welcoming people of Southampton.
We’re incredibly proud of our relationship with the local community and strongly believe the development will be a major social and economic benefit to the area.’