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SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Cheswick Village appeal

SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE: Cheswick Village appeal

Angus Meek Architects

Fifty students will move into an apartment building at a Bristol housing estate after a planning inspector overruled the council’s decision to block the move.

Developer Christian Grant Properties Ltd applied to turn the empty ground floor of the building at Cheswick Village into student flats last year.

Residents of the five-storey building had been expecting a GP surgery, gym and shops to fill the space, as this is what the developer got planning permission for in 2012 as part of the large new housing estate in Filton.

But Christian Grant Properties applied to convert the space into 39 student flats in June 2020, saying it had been unable to find tenants to rent the ground floor units.

“The design solution presented proposes a change of use to student apartments to meet the growing accommodation needs of the University of the West of England (UWE) that is less than 1km north-east of the site,” the developer told South Gloucestershire Council in planning documents.

“The internal height of the ground floor unit makes it appropriate for a two-storey student scheme, with a mezzanine floor used to divide the unit across two levels.”

The plans show the ground floor would contain 31 one-bedroom studios, and two five-bed and one four-bed ‘cluster’ flats with shared bathroom and living rooms.

Altogether it would provide 50 student beds, six car parking spaces and 50 cycle spaces.

The three upper stories of the building already contain 25 one and two-bedroom apartments, and a carpark occupies the basement level.

The council rejected the application in December 2020, but a planning inspector overturned the decision last month after the developer appealed it.

When Christian Grant Properties first submitted its plans, many residents of the housing estate were furious, including one who complained the proposals would turn Cheswick Village into a “noisy, antisocial, litter filled student town”.

Some 81 people opposed the application, whereas only four supported it.

Turning down the application, the council said the student flats would provide “substandard” living conditions, create parking problems in the area, and lack outdoor sports facilities for the students.

“If allowed, the development would provide substandard living conditions for future occupants due to a cramped layout and lack of private amenity space provision,” a planning officer wrote in the decision from December 2020.

“The proposal to insert 50no. bedrooms beneath existing residential units would also increase levels of noise and disturbance, to the detriment of the amenity of residents living above.”

Unwilling to accept the decision, Christian Grant Properties appealed it in June of this year, setting out its own arguments in a 20-page submission to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

It pointed out there are no local or national standards governing the size of student flats or the number of car parking spaces they should have.

Inspector Benjamin Webb upheld the appeal, granting permission for the student flats to be built in a decision dated October 13.

Mr Webb rejected all of the council’s reasons for refusing the application, saying the student flats would not be “cramped and oppressive”, would not harm the living conditions of residents in the flats above, and provided an “acceptable” amount of parking.

It did not need to provide any outdoor sports facilities as the university students will have access to their own dedicated facilities on campus, he added.

The inspector wrote: “As student flats are not intended as permanent places of residence, but provide relatively short-term accommodation whilst studying, their occupants can be expected to require far less space.

“In this regard, and in the absence of any clear evidence to the contrary, I see no reason why the range of proposed room sizes should be considered inadequate.

“The overall potential for disturbance of occupants of flats above would be far greater [if the space was occupied by the shops and other facilities approved].

“The site is located within quick and easy walking and cycling distance of the UWE campus, directly adjacent to a small supermarket and to other services, and has a very good level of access to public transport.

“A combination of the high level of accessibility of the site, with a lack of convenient parking space nearby would make the proposed accommodation most attractive to students without a car.”

The student flats must be occupied by no more than 50 university students and they must all be full-time students of UWE students, according to conditions on the permission granted by the inspector.

The flats must be built within three years of his decision.

Words:  Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter


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