Place strategy

Watkin Jones loses Fallowfield student accommodation appeal

The Planning Inspectorate has backed Manchester City Council’s decision to reject plans for a £23.5million student housing block.

Watkin Jones had wanted to construct a 13-story building on the site of the former offices of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. The oldest building on the site, Oakley Villa, would be retained in the project.

The plans, drawn up by Tim Groom Architects, would have seen the creation of 425 rooms for students.

Manchester City Council rejected the plan in September.

The height of the proposed construction and the impact that a purpose-built student housing project would have on the area were ultimately the two main factors in the program’s rejection.

Planning Inspector Darren Hendley has articulated his dismissal of the appeal on policy H12 of Manchester City Council’s Core Strategy Development Plan document. This policy specifies when priority will be given to PBSA projects and the criteria that must be met to do so.

Two criteria are not met by Watkin Jones’ proposal, according to Hendley and the board. These focus on high density development in places where it is compatible with existing developments and on plans that have a positive impact on regeneration.

Hendley said the 13-story building is significantly taller than its surroundings and would negatively impact the character and appearance of the rest of the townscape. He noted that the project would not be located in the center of the Fallowfield district, where high density development is considered appropriate.

Distant view of the rejected scheme. Credit: via urban planning documents

The plans would also not contribute to the regeneration of the area, Hendley explained, as it is entirely for students and would only have one bedroom which could be booked by the wider community. The plans have no housing mix and the community living there is unlikely to blend in with the rest of the neighborhood.

The absence of a formal agreement with a university also worked against the regime.

Hendley also did not give credence to the idea that a PBSA in the area would open homes for families.

“It cannot be said with certainty whether this would result in the private housing stock returning to non-student use, as it is unclear where future occupants would come from or their accommodation preferences,” the inspector wrote. town planning in its decision.

“Furthermore, I have been informed that the number of students has increased and therefore the need for accommodation for this type of occupier, which includes the private housing stock, will also increase.”

Hendley said the other reasons for rejecting the project – namely the impact it would have on people living nearby in terms of noise – were not valid.

The Town Planning Inspector also noted that the scheme had strong economic merit, projecting an economic benefit of £23.5million and creating 80 construction jobs.

Still, the pros did not outweigh the cons.

“In reaching my conclusion, I have considered all relevant issues that have been raised,” Hendley wrote. “The fact that the proposal would not be in an appropriate location in terms of development plan regeneration and housing policies, and would have an unacceptable effect on the character and appearance of the area, is decisive.

“The proposal conflicts with the development plan as a whole and there are no material considerations to override this conflict.”

Turley was the planning consultant and Layer.studio was the landscape architect for the project.

Want to know more about the plan? The Manchester City Council application reference number is 129020/FO/2020. The reference number for the appeal to the town planning inspectorate is APP/B4215/W/21/3286831.