Sheffield’s two universities are becoming “cuckoos in the nest” as student housing dominates the city centre, says a community activist.
Christopher Pennell, of Dore Village Society, is worried that Sheffield city centre is becoming so dominated with student units, other housing will have to be built on the Green Belt.
Last month councillors on the planning board asked officers for more figures on the number of student units as they also have concerns.
Mr Pennell said: “At the end of 2014 there was a major consultation called the Citywide Options for Growth which looked at employment and housing growth. It said for the future we are going to need 43,000 new homes by 2034.
“Our universities are wonderful and an enormous success but they have become the cuckoo in the nest. Tony Blair said he wanted 45 percent of young people to go to university and the universities have had huge success in attracting overseas students but the the growth in the number of students is huge.
“They have located the students in the centre of the city and developers have been building like mad with tower after tower going up for students when it could have been alternative housing for other people.
“This is housing for students who are not there all the year and for a large number of people from abroad. Why do the universities have this ability to take over space? We could have campuses outside the city.”
Planning officers say new developments must now show how they can be converted into housing for other people if student numbers fall. Some new developments offer a mix of units for students and young professionals or short term renters.
Sheffield University says it meets all the regulations required. A spokesman said: “All of our University-owned single student residences comply with the regulations set by the Universities Code of Practice for the Management of Student Housing.
“We continue to work closely with the council and our accommodation providers, who are subject to the ANUK Code, which sets out a number of benchmark standards.”
A Sheffield Hallam University spokesman denied student numbers had increased in recent years. “The university recently conducted a survey alongside Sheffield Council as part of research into general housing provision in the city. We work closely with the council and our partners at the University of Sheffield and regularly share data on student accommodation.”
The council is due to publish its Local Plan which will outline how much new housing is needed in the city and whether the Green Belt will need to be developed to accommodate it.