Quality is key for developers building student housing in Sheffield

A 784-bed  complex of student a private flats planned for the site of Gordon Lamb Limited off Summerfield Road, Sheffield. Acanthus WSM Architects
A 784-bed complex of student a private flats planned for the site of Gordon Lamb Limited off Summerfield Road, Sheffield. Acanthus WSM Architects
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Developers adding to the huge portfolio of student housing in Sheffield are realising the need to add quality living that benefits the whole city.

The latest application submitted to Sheffield Council is for a 550-bed complex on a vacant site in Rockingham Street.

Site of new construction site for new student flats on Rockingham Street, Sheffield.

Site of new construction site for new student flats on Rockingham Street, Sheffield.

The development would comprise three linked blocks, with a mixture of cluster bedrooms, studios and one-bed apartments.

The complex would fill a large hole in Rockingham Street in an area which is rapidly being taken over by student housing, in a theme common across the city centre. Watkin Jones finished the neighbouring 280-bed Rockingham House in 2008.

The Watkins Jones Group, founded by carpenter Huw Jones in 1791, shifted its focus to university accommodation in 1999, and since then has built flats to house more than 35,000 students across the country.

The firm manages 41 student properties, including several in Sheffield city centre, such as the Cornerhouse complex in Edward Street and Sharman Court in Broad Lane. A further development of 139 studio apartments in Suffolk Street is due to open next year.

A 550-bed student flat complex planned for Rockingham Street, Sheffield. The view from Rockingham Street.

A 550-bed student flat complex planned for Rockingham Street, Sheffield. The view from Rockingham Street.

The firm says it works closely with councils and universities to ‘ensure high- quality, appropriately designed schemes that enhance local amenity’.

Across Sheffield, plans for three more major student complexes have been submitted since August: an 11-storey, 284-bed block in Mayfield Court, off West Street; a 243-bed develoment off Hollis Croft; and a four-block mixed use project with 40 student cluster flats in Ecclesall Road.

And there are several schemes under construction, including the conversion of an office block in West Bar.

With both the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University attracting more students each year, the need for accommodation is obvious.

But student accommodation can no longer just be a block of flats.

Increasingly, developers are trying to add something more to the city.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Summerfield Street.

On Tuesday, city councillors approved a plan to build a 784-bed complex of student and private flats on the former Gordon Lamb car dealership site, near Ecclesall Road.

A report to councillors ahead of Tuesday’s meeting explained that the scale of the development – 10 storeys – was acceptable in the area.

And council officers highlighted some of the public realm aspects of the application.

They said: “A new pedestrian walkway linking Napier Street to Summerfield Street along the banks of the Porter Brook is proposed.

“This is welcomed as it improves pedestrian permeability along the strategic green network.”

Both universities are taking public realm into account in their own developments, from Hallam’s extensive remodelling of the area along Arundel Gate, to the University of Sheffield’s pedestrianisation of much of its campus.

However, the Rockingham Street development has raised some concern. The University of Sheffield’s head of property and business services Chris Garlick has already commented on the planning application, noting the proximity to engineering department buildings on the other side of the road.

He wrote: “The established use of the university’s buildings means there is noise and fumes created from the buildings, which operate on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

“The university therefore has concerns that the proposed development of a 550 student bedspaces with ground floor commercial units in this location would not be a suitable use.

“The university would not wish for the proposed development to affect the current or future use of the university’s accommodation in this location.”

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