Agenda item

Agenda item

138126/OO/2023 - University of Manchester Fallowfield Campus Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 6HD - Fallowfield Ward

The report of the Director of Planning, Building Control and Licensing is enclosed.


The Committee considered the report of the Director of Planning, Building Control and Licensing regarding an outline planning application (with access only in detail) for the phased demolition of existing buildings and phased development of up to 3,300 Purpose Built Student Accommodation bedrooms (Sui Generis use class)

with associated facilities including waste storage, laundry and cycle storage; up to 4,500 sq m of floorspace to be used for ancillary purposes associated with the student residential use of the site within Use Class F1a, Class E(a), E(b), E(c), E(d), E(g), Sui Generis (drinking establishment and hot food takeaway); ancillary supporting staff accommodation (up to 55 bedrooms) (Sui Generis use class), and up to 1,200 sq m of ancillary residential dwellings (Use Class C3), plus associated car parking, hard and soft landscaping, open space, utilities, footpaths and roads.


The application related to the redevelopment of part of the University of Manchester

student halls of residence at its Fallowfield Campus within the Fallowfield ward. Planning permission had previously been granted for its demolition and redevelopment as part of a wider scheme to provide additional bedspaces at the Campus. The application sought to update the University’s proposals to modernise the campus and provide further additional capacity at the site to address the need within the City for further purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).


The Planning Officer noted the additional objections in the late representations report from local community groups and confirmed that all matters raised were already addressed in the report.


An objector attended the hearing and addressed the Committee stating that the scheme clashed with local and national policies and legal precedents. As an outline application, the most impactful features would be reserved matters, meaning that the Committee would not get to deliberate if they approved the proposal today. There were no particular details on the amount of bed spaces. An additional influx of wealthy students would cause harm to Fallowfield by way of 100,000 tons of carbon, in excess of legal limits in the area. Children have to walk past this area daily and also people with respiratory conditions. This scheme was contrary to the council’s own air quality policies. Bat protection was questioned and 14 bat roosts were mentioned. It was a criminal offence to remove bat roosts. This was a student fortress with no mixed use, no public rights of way and contrary to the core strategy. The Planning Officer may not have been well advised on this application. The Committee were being asked to make a decision on an unknown quantity and it was expressed that this application was a Trojan horse.


The applicant’s agent attended and addressed the Committee stating that this was a major investment and core part of the developer’s portfolio and would provide 4,500 safe student dwellings spaces. It was mentioned that Manchester’s growth had been partly due to the student population with many choosing to settle in the city and contribute. This was a globally competitive marketplace. Fallowfield played an important role in this field but the site drastically needed modernisation. There was growing demand for accommodation for overseas students which was currently not matched by growth in the provision of dedicated accommodation. There were challenges in meeting these accommodation commitments. This application presented a phased transformation of the current campus to address key points.  There would be a variety of dwelling sizes and price points to allow affordable options. There would be ancillary facilities to make the campus self-sufficient. There would be 950 extra bedspaces, additional to the current offering. This was a modest increase which would allow for 2nd and 3rd year students to return to the site and lessen the use of mainstream housing stock. There would be additional tree planting and the retention of green spaces. This scheme would build on what was already a student campus and would be subject to effective management. There was a level of local concern and communications with the community had been addressed with officers to work together.


Ward Councillor Ilyas addressed the Committee stating that he understood the need for student accommodation and that the number of HMOs and PBSA in the proximity of this proposal is an issue for community cohesion. Councillor Ilyas did not agree that it was HMOs and not PBSA that caused the main problems as the impacts can be caused by the people and organisations within the community. This proposed expansion in the heart of the community put it at breaking point and would exacerbate the need for HMOs. Councillor Ilyas supported PBSA but the policy needed to take account of the community. The scheme was not in line with MCC policy and was imbalanced. The council had already spent time and resources tackling anti-social behaviour, litter and other associated issues and he questioned the legitimacy of pouring more public money into this problem which could undo years of work.


Ward Councillor Doswell addressed the Committee and stated that the regeneration of the site and the improvement of standards of student accommodation was welcomed. Councillor Doswell was in attendance to represent both residents and students and expressed that they should not pit one against the other. She felt that the application fell short of key information, most notably the number of bedspaces. The Planning Officers have stated that there will be a “reserved matters” application to follow for determination but the Committee need to know what they are voting on today. There needed to be an indication of the number of bedspaces in order for the Committee to be able to make a clear decision. Also, there was no mention of the capacity of staff dwellings on the site. This was less a question of who but more about how many and Councillor Doswell expressed concerns about costs and lower income students. Working class students felt priced out of accommodation in the city and it was noted that 20% of the rooms should be let at an affordable rate if agreed, with the NUS definition or 20% discount on the market rate. Regarding current issues, there were mid-week complaints about noise, litter and anti-social behaviour in this area. Students tend to live in PBSA for the first year and then find a cheaper HMO. Due to this practice, this proposal would be unsustainable in 5 years time. Private developers will build more PBSA and plans are lodged every week for the Fallowfield Ward. Councillor Doswell disagreed that this proposal met with Manchester City Council policy, adding that the application relating to Oakley Villa on Wilmslow Road for 425 bedspaces was considered contrary to the core strategy. The university should seek to develop better relationships with local residents and Councillor Doswell requested that the Committee reject this application to work towards a better development.


The Planning Officer stated that there was a detailed report which covered all issues raised. The next stage of the application was reserved for future consideration with this application being before the Committee to set parameters to guide the following proposal with outline applications being wholly normal practice within the planning application process. With regard to reserved matters in a future application, it was noted that there would be 5,300 bedspaces, an extra 950 to what was currently possible on-site. The application complied with all policies and this was set out within the report. There was specific policy advice in the core strategy noting potential to intensify development at this campus. Regarding bat roosts, there would need to be a licence granted from Natural England and no work could progress until the licence was granted. In terms of the campus being a “student fortress,” the setting is the same as the site has never had a public right of way. The outer tree belt would be retained. There was a clear footprint whereby development can take place and that this will take place within 35% of the developable area. Also identified were height restrictions for certain zones. When the reserved matters application comes forward, the application will be fully tested again and brought to Committee. In the USDAW planning appeal, the inspector had stated that they felt this application was acceptable as a concept, their refusal was more concerning design, scale and mass. The inspector did not find that the increase in numbers was unacceptable, on the contrary, they stated that it would be an improvement to students living in HMOs. The last 10 years has seen a 29% drop in council tax exemption in South Manchester and a move towards the city centre and/or PBSA. In terms of affordability, the scheme was not subjected to other market pressures, plus there was not enough PBSA hence a higher cost. The matter had been discussed with the Neighbourhoods Team within the city council and it was noted that the larger impact of students was caused by them living in HMOs.


The Chair invited the Committee to ask questions or make comments.


Councillor Curley proposed a site visit to have a greater understanding of the proposal within its surroundings.


Councillor Johnson seconded the proposal and stated that this application was similar to the previous Ardwick applications as there was a strong community voice. She requested information on the drop in council tax exemptions and whether there was any data available to show that students choose to move home. Councillor Jonson noted that there was clearly a need for more PBSA and asked if there could be a condition to address the issue of cohesion and integration between the two communities, residents and students.


Councillor Gartside stated that she was aware and recognised the need for further PBSA in the city; an additional 950 bedspaces and asked if there was any available information on 2nd and 3rd year students dwelling choices, how many HMOs were being made available and whether this applied to 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students.


The Planning Officer stated that the council’s Executive had set out that there was not enough PBSA, reporting that 10,000 rooms across the city had been set as the necessary amount, with the Planning and Highways Committee having approved 3,500 so far. It was reported that 670 homes had been made available due to the expansion of PBSA in the city and that providing an alternative was the only way to keep this trend up. The Planning Officer stated that community engagement cannot be added as a Planning Condition but noted that the applicant/agent was in the meeting and would be able to take this away. If the Committee voted for a site visit, then more information could be brought back to a later meeting.


Councillor S Ali agreed that there should be a site visit.




The Committee resolved to approve a motion for a site visit in order to fully understand the potential impact of the development on the local community.


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