EXCLUSIVE: Glasgow moves to curb rise of student halls that threaten to swamp city

By Ian Marland at

It is a city that prides itself on attracting more and more young people to study.

Hand in hand with the new arrivals has been an explosion in purpose-built private rented student accommodation.

Student halls

Rise: A train journey west of out town shows the scale of the new student accommodation market

A train journey from Partick into town illustrates how big the new student accommodation market is – with high-rise apartments dotted across the West End.

It is a similar picture in other parts of the city.

Now the concerns of communities who feel swamped by the building and influx of new transient populations have been picked up by the city.

New powers have been adopted by Glasgow City Council to reset the planning system.

For the first time, communities will be able to argue over-provision of student accommodation in an area when faced with future applications.

SNP councillor for Anderston/City/Yorkhill, Angus Millar, says some communities in the city centre and the West End feel surrounded by student housing.

Student halls

Capacity: some parts of the West End have seen an explosion in student numbers

He told Glasgow West End Today: “Student developments can be positive for the city, but we need to ensure balance to support existing residents and establish mixed and vibrant communities – and that means promoting a variety of housing types, not allowing student developments to dominate.

“I am pleased that the council’s new City Development Plan … now enables the council to consider whether there is an over-concentration of student accommodation in any area.

“It means communities that feel inundated with private student housing now have more of an opportunity to have their voices heard in the planning process.

“For the first time, this gives communities legitimate grounds for objection within the council’s planning policies on the basis that there are simply too many private student developments in their area.

‘AFFECTED’

“This will be welcome news for many – with around 70% of new and approved student accommodation in Glasgow located in my ward, and areas like Townhead, Yorkhill and the Merchant City particularly affected.

“As a local councillor, I know the message from these areas is loud and clear – enough is enough.”

Glasgow MSP Sandra White thinks the new measures are timely.

Sandra said: “I and my constituents are very concerned at the number of student accommodations in this part of the city – the height of them, the capacity, the density.

“They are towering over existing communities, like here in Beith Street in Partick, and throughout the Glasgow Kelvin constituency.

“I therefore welcome the new provision being brought forward by the new city administration that says that if there is over provision of student accommodation in any one area, that can be put forward against a future applications at planning committee.”

Sandra White and student halls

Concerns: MSP Sandra White said constituents feel swamped by the number of buildings

Glasgow has 133,000 students studying at its centres of higher and further education – of those 68,000 live in the city.

There are 18,000 students living in purpose-built student accommodation, with the numbers set to rise.

At Glasgow University alone, the rate of growth has been sharp: in 2007/08 the university had 21,600 students, climbing to 26,600 in 2016/17.

A spokeswoman said there were no projections of student levels for the next 10 years but said it was likely numbers would “remain steady/grow slightly in the current climate”.

‘COMMUNITIES’

Andy Dale is the principal planner for the City Development Plan team.

He said the new policy looked to redress the balance between attracting students to Glasgow and protecting existing communities.

Andy said: “We’ve seen a massive growth in student accommodation not only Glasgow but all throughout the UK as well.

“And actually Glasgow has probably got a lower proportion of student accommodation than many other UK cities, particularly south of the border.

“So I think it’s a balance of getting the proportions right, but it’s about looking at the locations as well – it’s a holistic arrangement.”

He said: “We are an education and a learning city – that is a context which is a very big positive for the city.

“But achieving that balance is something that we are definitely aspiring towards.”