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Planning Appraisal Group - TrustNews Dec 17

My previous report noted that the proposed development of student flats at 180 Greenhill Road was refused by the City Council Planning Committee. At the time l also remarked that a number of commercial developers seem to see student accommodation as a profitable market investment since the planning rules for this kind of building are in some respects, especially with regard to provision of on-site parking, less stringent than for a similar number of residential flats. Now I can report that the application for redevelopment of the site of Pine Cottage, 4 Sparkford Road, with demolition of the existing building and replacement with 91 studio flats specifically designed for students was permitted after lengthy discussion by the Planning Committee. Our reviewing panels will shortly be looking at another application for purpose-built student accommodation, this time in Winnall (Balfour House, Winnall Close).

Various members of the Trust including myself had a meeting with Jenny Nell, head of Strategic Planning for WCC, at which the topic of student housing did arise. As you may know the Trust has been concerned about the City's lack of any specific policy for student accommodation (it instead relies on Local Plan Part ll, which has general language about ensuring diversity of housing). The Local Plan Review is due to start next year and policies can be proposed for this, but given the time it will take to finalise these, there will be ample opportunity for more applications to come forward for student halls of residence. Jenny Nell pointed out that the controversial sites were mainly sited close to Winchester University (such as Greenhill Road and Sparkford Road). We also learned from her that there is now a requirement from central government for local authorities to assess both the needs of older people and students and to plan for suitable accommodation for them. This will include the needs of both universities in Winchester. In this context we learned that currently student units do not count toward the Winchester housing inventory, but hat this is likely to change given the more detailed accounting requirements. Because student units do not count they have not been counted, so apparently no one really knows at the moment how much student accommodation there is within the City - data which will now have to be collected.

Another area of policy concern arose in connection with a planning application for 2 St George's Street, on the corner of St George's Street and Jewry Street. This application included a request to extinguish highway rights for part of the pavement so that decking could be laid for outdoor seating. In the course of following this up we learned that it is Hampshire County Council that controls such highway rights and that there is a separate application process which has to go through the County Council before it can come to the City. In general we are opposed to moves which would permanently restrict access to parts of what is now the public realm. Many other restaurants do have outdoor seating but this is under licence from the City Council (licences which can be revoked).

Otherwise the reviewing panels continue their sterling work, for which we are very grateful. They have reviewed an average number of applications this quarter. Details of the numbers reviewed and those that we found controversial can be found on the left hand side of the home page of the Trust website.

Mary Tiles