The University of Southampton has been revealed by the Daily Echo to spend £100,000-a-year on scaffolding for Stoneham Tower, a derelict student block and known local eye-sore opposite Montefiore Halls of Residence.
The news comes after the Conservative City Councillor for the Swaythling ward, Bob Painton, raised the issue at a full city council meeting on Wednesday.
Councillor Painton said at the meeting:
With the council granting new student accommodations all over the city and residents of the city crying out ‘enough is enough’ as they want affordable housing, will the council officers take the university to task and demand that action taken and some progress is taken either on refurbishing the building?
This will help release the bulging strain of HMO’s that can return to social housing.
Or are we here to just watch the building disintegrate?
His comments were met with widespread agreement from all sides in the council.
The building, constructed in 1964 and used as a Hall of Residence for many years, has now been unoccupied for 8 years, and has been covered in scaffolding since October 2012.
However, an issue affecting any development of, or on the tower block site, is its close proximity to the Grade 2 listed South Stoneham House, an 18th century abandoned mansion house. This makes demolition of the tower block substantially more difficult. Labour Councillor for Swaythling Ward, Sharon Mintoff, also raised during the council meeting the potential problem of the building likely containing a significant amount of asbestos.
Labour representative and Council leader, Simon Letts, told the meeting that his impression was that ‘the university wants to deal with this problem as much as we do’ and that he’d personally discussed the subject of the tower block with University of Southampton Vice-Chancellor, Christopher Snowden, on ‘at least four occasions’. He added that the council could not force the university to take action, but in response to the discussion he would write a letter to the university in the hope of pushing development.
Responding to the council meeting discussion of the tower block, a university spokesperson said:
The university listened to the debate on Wednesday with interest. We welcome the recognition of the site’s many complicating factors and the leader’s statement that we are keen to tackle the redevelopment of the site.
It has also been confirmed that the university unsuccessfully attempted to market the tower in 2015.
The news of the university’s £100,000-a-year expense on maintaining scaffolding on the tower block comes in the wake of the recent announcement by Vice Chancellor Sir Christopher Snowden of plans set to see the loss of 50 to 75 academic posts, and reduce of the university’s number of faculties from 8 to 5.