Councillors concerned about more student flats

Councillors are concerned about the number of student flats in the city centre because they don’t pay council tax.

By Lucy Ashton
Wednesday, 18th September 2019, 12:47 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th September 2019, 10:18 am
Artist's impression of the Hodgson Street development (Yeme Architects)
Artist's impression of the Hodgson Street development (Yeme Architects)

The planning board says while students do contribute to the economy in other ways, their accommodation doesn’t bring any money into the council.

Properties are exempt from council tax if they are completely occupied by full time university or college students. Halls of residence are automatically exempt.

The committee agreed plans for seven storey building with 77 student beds at Hodgson Street in the Devonshire Quarter but had some concerns.

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Coun Dianne Hirst said: “We don’t know whether or not we have the demand for this. Students don’t contribute any income directly to the local authority. Why aren’t we developing cluster flats for adults who want to live in the community and we would get something out of it.”

Officer Sarah Hull said developers were asked to look at the market to see if their schemes were viable. “If it doesn’t work out and there is not the demand, they would convert it to something else. We don’t have the evidence to say there’s too much student accommodation.”

Coun Peter Rippon was concerned that developers were originally asked to contribute £199,000 to affordable housing but this had been reduced to £79,000.

Coun Bob McCann added: “This £79,000 is being paid in installments and we have been down this road before where developers have agreed to pay then go out of business so the money doesn’t get paid. How will you ensure it does get paid?”

Officer Michael Johnson admitted it could be a problem. “It’s a good point and we discuss this when a developer comes to us and we get a bit nervy.

“We always try to sympathise with the necessity to get some income and get something on site. We said the first payment would be within six months of the development commencing and the second is in 18 months.

“Section 106 money is much more sophisticated than 10 years ago and we build in clauses to chase people.”