Portsmouth student blocks: Owners of Crown Place ask permission to let non-students live there

A SHORTAGE in demand from students has prompted the owners of one of the biggest blocks in Portsmouth to seek permission to use one-fifth of the building to house other people.

Collegiate has submitted a planning application to the city council for the temporary change of use of 115 rooms at Crown Place warning that its financial viability would be 'at risk' without it.

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'Whilst the facility could operate at a lower occupancy, clearly there are significant cost implications associated with this which could put the business' long-term viability at risk,' a planning statement submitted on its behalf says.

Crown Place hall of residence in Portsmouth in July 2018

'It is also far preferable to see the building in full use rather than sitting empty for the upcoming academic year.

'The very real impact of the pandemic is still being felt by the university sector and therefore is also being felt by student accommodation providers.

'It is vital that the applicant can maximise income whilst the sector recovers if it is to secure its continued sustainability.’

The 23-storey Crown Place is the joint-largest student accommodation block in th e city, with 576 rooms.

Its owner, which operates student accommodation across the country, laid part of the blame for the struggles in filling it at the feet of the university.

‘The University of Portsmouth has advised all international students who were studying online during the main lockdown periods to continue studying online,’ it said. ‘This flies in the face of advice of other universities which was to come back to campus.

‘The impact of this has been that fewer international students are in the market for Portsmouth accommodation.'

But a university spokesman dismissed the claim and said international students had not all been advised to study online.

‘The University of Portsmouth has always placed a high value on face-to-face teaching for all our students,’ they said. ‘Online learning was offered to students during the pandemic if they could not travel to the UK because of restrictions in their countries and to follow government guidelines.

‘Crown Place is a privately-owned hall of residence which can be rented by students as if they were renting a house in the city. The university has never been consulted by the developers of Crown Place at any point during the building’s development, construction or planning.

‘Our primary concern is to monitor this situation and ensure that there is no negative impact on our students.’

They added that ‘international recruitment’ was ‘very strong’.