Plans press ahead for 260 new student flats in Sunderland - despite fears over university numbers falling

Plans for almost 260 new city centre student flats could be given the green light in September, despite uncertainty over future numbers.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 5:53 pm

Proposals were submitted last year to pull down Sunderland University’s Forster Building, in Chester Road, and replace it with two buildings housing shops and homes.

And although concerns have been raised about a decline in numbers studying and living on Wearside, planners have suggested more purpose-built accommodation could allow properties elsewhere in the city to be handed back to families and professionals to live in.

Or new blocks could even be converted themselves, if the supply for education uses outstrips demand.

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The University of Sunderland's Forster Building, in Chester Road, where there are to replace it with two buildings housing shops and homes.

According to a report prepared for development chiefs at Sunderland City Council: “It is considered that the principle of the proposed development is acceptable given the location of the proposal within the University Campus and in a sustainable location close to the City Centre.

“The accommodation would provide high quality student living accommodation which would represent an opportunity to be converted into alternative residential accommodation in the future should this be required.”

The plans are due to be considered by the city council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee next week (Friday, September 4) at a meeting due to be held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Opponents of the scheme have pointed to falling numbers of students in the city who need accommodation between 2014 - 2019.

There is also uncertainty about the long term effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be on the institution, or its decision announced earlier in 2020 to close its history faculty.

However, figures have also shown that during 2019/2020 the university saw an increase in students, with a corresponding rise in demand for accommodation.

Research has also suggested more students want to live in purpose-built accommodation over the length of their courses, rather than using traditional house shares.

The report for councillors adds better quality student flats on Wearside could help Sunderland ‘compete with the likes of Newcastle and Durham whilst also helping to ensure a vibrant and successful city’.

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