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Policy changed on new postgrad digs
A POLICY designed to stop student accommodation being built in residential areas would not apply to housing for postgraduates, it has emerged.
Residents strongly supported an Oxford City Council policy designed to direct student accommodation to main thoroughways and the city centre.
The policy was seen as a means of reducing disturbance from students and to ensure developers focused on building family homes, rather than more profitable student blocks.
But it is claimed the Sites and Housing Plan – which sets out where homes should be built in Oxford over the next 13 years and was approved last month by a planning inspector – has seen the policy watered down.
East Oxford Residents’ Associations Forum, made up of 20 residents’ groups, say a late compromise has resulted in a distinction being made between undergraduate and postgraduate accommodation, to allow new graduate accommodation to go on being built in residential areas.
Forum spokesman Dr Sietske Boeles fears the change will hit the number of homes built for families, meaning Oxford may not meet its housing targets.
She said: “There is now huge concern. It seems that graduate accommodation will not be subject to the policy. It goes against the core principle that the expansion of student accommodation in Oxford should not be at the expense of general housing provision.
“It seems there will now be two types of student accommodation. It is a mess.”
Colin Cook, city council board member for development, said: “I sympathize with residents who are concerned on this front. But the inspector has been persuaded by the university’s argument that graduates are a different kettle of fish.
“But I think we will still be able to meet our housing target, although demand for housing will always vastly outstrip supply.”
Mr Cook assured residents that postgraduates were far less likely to inflict late night disturbance.
Oxford University spokesman, Matt Pickles, said: “Graduate students tend to be older and live and work like full-time professionals, sometimes with families.”
Ed Chipperfield, of James Street, said: “Postgraduate students are usually a quiet bunch in my personal experience, and I was one once.
“I can see why that compromise has been reached but I would be concerned about the long- term implications of it because who is to say that housing built for postgraduate students won’t be turned into housing for undergraduates in the future if it can’t be filled.”
Of the students currently at Oxford University, 11,752 are undergraduates and 9,621 postgraduates.
The council clashed with Oxford University over a proposal to make it and the colleges contribute to social housing as the price of being allowed to build new student accommodation, with a charge of £140 per square metre.
After seeking legal advice the colleges said the policy was unlawful and amounted to “a specialist local tax”.
It is understood the compromise arrangements mean the universities and colleges will be able to seek exemption on grounds such as “viability and meeting student accommodation targets”.
The Sites and Housing Plan will go to the city Council’s full council for formal adoption on February 18.