City Hall plans for strict rules on student digs to go public

City Hall plans for strict rules on student digs to go public

Construction of the student apartments, overlooking the south channel of the River Lee, to the rear of the former Beamish & Crawford Brewery, adjacent to the proposed event site development by BAM. Pic; Larry Cummins

CITY HALL last night moved forward with the development of specific regulations on the construction of student apartments in Cork.

It comes ahead of an expected surge in the number of students attending third level colleges in Cork in the coming years.

The draft regulations will now go out to public consultation, with members of the community invited to make submissions ahead of the preparation of a final plan later this year.

If approved, it will impose strict rules on future proposals, requiring them to be located close to third level institutions, on public transport or cycle corridors and will take scale, density and on-site supervision into account.

The former Square Deal building at Washington Street is to accommodate another student apartment development. Picture: Denis Minihane.
The former Square Deal building at Washington Street is to accommodate another student apartment development. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Currently, there are approximately 40,000 students in Cork during the academic year. This figure has increased with every census since 2001, jumping by 26% from 2006 to 2016.

The current demand for student rental accommodation in Cork is approximately 13,000-bed spaces, with this figure expected to rise significantly over the coming years as both UCC and CIT increase their student populations.

A report presented to council noted that there are a number of potential negative impacts on existing residential areas as a result of student accommodation builds, in particular when it comes to house shares in existing residential communities. These can include parking and waste disposal issues, as well as the ‘steady decline of the character and condition of streets and individual properties’, it noted.

The report also raised concerns about the standard of some of these properties.

It continued to note a record number of planning applications in the last two years for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), including sites on the Western Road, South Main Street, Magazine Road, the Lough and other sites in the heart of the city.

Research conducted also claimed that increasing the volume of PBSA can result in increased properties entering the private market as those previously occupied by students are freed up.

The amendment in its current format will impose strict guidelines on location and operation of future developments.

It said: “The City Council will support the provision of high quality and managed, purpose-built student accommodation, on campus, in areas close proximity to third level institutes and in locations with easy access of public transport corridors and cycle routes serving third level institutes.”

A view of how the planned new student apartments on the former filling station site on the Western Road will look.
A view of how the planned new student apartments on the former filling station site on the Western Road will look.

The amendment proposes certain criteria are taken into consideration when it comes to future planning applications. These include the location, scale and density of developments and their impact on residential communities. It also includes architectural quality, including height, the provision of on-site facilities, such as waste management, bike storage and car parking, and the provision of on-site management or supervision.

Developments will be able to cater for tourists during summer months but will be exclusively for third level students during the other months of the year.

Councillors were unanimous in their support of the project, which has been the subject of much debate over the last year.

Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer has been one of the most vocal supporters in the chamber, with the Bishopstown and Wilton area, where he is based, seeing the biggest impact when it comes to student developments.

Mr Buttimer said that the current City Development Plan is ‘very clearly’ lacking when it comes to such developments.

He said that strict conditions are needed. “There are things that have worked well, such as supervision and monitoring on site,” he said.

“We also need to keep a close eye on parking. New city apartments are not going to have parking spaces and residents will not have access to permits and that should be the case here too. Space is a commodity; it is expensive and it shouldn’t be tied up in parking spaces. Residents should, instead, be using public transport.”

Fianna Fáil’s Seán Martin backed this. “There are communities in our city that have been totally eroded by student developments,” he added. “This strategy is badly needed... both for the communities where students are based and, indeed, for the students themselves, some of whom are living in disgraceful conditions.”

The amendments will now go out to part 8 public consultation. After this, submissions will be taken into consideration before preparing a final amendment which will be presented to Cork City Council. If approved, it will be written into the City Development Plan.

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