A third block of student flats in Cardiff has applied for a change of use due to the coronavirus though questions should be asked over the types of student accommodation . being built , which benefit from relaxed planning rules , and the actual future plan in generals
Diolch, Llywydd. There have been a number of successful planning applications recently for student accommodation in Cardiff. Some people have observed that virtually every major housing block granted planning permission for central Cardiff in the past 18 months has been for student accommodation. At the same time, we have a second so-called student block considering applying for change of use so that it can let its rooms to non-students, due to lack of demand from the student population. We also have a large block in Newport that is no longer being used exclusively for students. If there is a lack of demand for the blocks that have already been built, why are more student blocks being built, I wonder. Is the Welsh Government aware of this issue, and what are you doing to regulate this area?
Thank you for the question. I’m certainly aware of the issue, in terms of there being a large number of student accommodations within Cardiff that aren’t being occupied by students. There’s a particular difficulty in terms of changing those accommodations into non-student accommodations, of course, because my understanding is that the regulations surrounding the different types of accommodation are different, so there is an issue there in terms of space, and so on. I know this is an issue that the Minister with responsibility for planning is also very much alive to. But my advice to local authorities, certainly, would be to look very closely at their local housing needs analysis, and to be organising their planning and decision making around planning in accordance with those local housing needs.
...Thanks for that response. I’m glad you are aware of the issue. I think there may be a need for perhaps closer involvement at Welsh Government level in this area, because the local authorities—certainly in Cardiff and Newport—may not be doing enough about it. I think that we may be heading for over-supply of student accommodation. Certainly we know that the expansion of higher education cannot go on forever; there will not be an endless supply of more student members in Cardiff, Newport, or probably anywhere else in Wales. I think what we may have here is something of a scam. It may be that the universities are deliberately creating an over-supply of flats for the student market, so that they can change their use by the back door, and use them subsequently to let out commercially. We know that there are less stringent rules applied to student flats than to commercial developments, for instance, which you alluded to in your answer. Are you aware that the universities could be duping the local councils into allowing these developments of student blocks, which the university chiefs know full well may be used subsequently for commercial letting?