University student halls in Portsmouth not ready for start of term

Stanhope House student accommodation building in Portsmouth on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Stanhope House student accommodation building in Portsmouth on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman
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STUDENTS set to move into a 256-bed shining new halls of residence costing up to £209 a week in the middle of Portsmouth have been told they cannot move in this weekend as the building is not finished.

Stanhope House, boasting en suite rooms to ‘superior plus studios’, was a hive of activity this afternoon with workers scrambling to finish the 19-storey block delayed due to ‘unforeseen issues’ before term starts on Monday.

Devastated University of Portsmouth students hoping to move into the halls in Commercial Road – which cost about £30m – this weekend were told by email this Monday to delay their arrival by two to three weeks.

Freshers week and lectures get under way next week - with the delay branded ‘bonkers’ by one parent whose daughter is due to live at the ‘sold out’ block.

The block has themed rooms including a Tiki bar-styled TV room with an 80-inch television, a games room with arcade machines, an American diner-style dining room and a games area.

The building’s developer, Crosslane Student Developments, insisted construction by its Shrewsbury-based contractor RGB Group had been ‘on schedule’ but ‘despite their genuine efforts, hand-over of the building to the operator’ Prime Student Living had been delayed due to ‘unforeseen issues’.

Building work still being carried out at Stanhope House on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Building work still being carried out at Stanhope House on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Just two weeks ago Prime posted on Twitter, on August 29, and said: ‘We cannot be more excited for our brand new property to open next month.’

Earlier this week Crosslane admitted a 310-bed student halls in Swansea, Wales, would not open in time for term.

The father of one 18-year-old student set to pay £168-a-week for a bedroom in a flat in Portsmouth was stunned at seeing an email to his daughter that warned of the delays but asked for rental payments.

The email from Prime said: ‘Unless you have already paid your rent in the last couple of days, it is now due.’

The Crossland Student Developments building Stanhope House has been delayed meaning University of Portsmouth students cannot move in as planned over the weekend. The website shows the flats are all sold out. Picture: Prime Student Living

The Crossland Student Developments building Stanhope House has been delayed meaning University of Portsmouth students cannot move in as planned over the weekend. The website shows the flats are all sold out. Picture: Prime Student Living

The dad, who asked not to be named, said: ‘They asked if she wouldn’t mind staying at home for the first few weeks - it’s just bonkers.

‘We were gobsmacked, we’d been waiting for the welcome pack. The welcome pack was delayed because of printing errors, we were told, then we’re told there’s an email that’s gone out - then we realised.

‘We got the email and it was quite distressing.

‘It’s a bit like they’ve breached the primary terms and conditions of their contract by not having it ready.’

Building work still being carried out at Stanhope House on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Building work still being carried out at Stanhope House on September 10. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Upset students have been told they will get £150 off their rent and will not be charged for time they are not in their flats.

Only after begging students not to arrive this weekend in its email does the company admit it is under an obligation to organise temporary alternative accommodation for anyone who does.

Prime Student Living managing director Steve Goldstraw said the ‘situation is out of our control, our first priority is to our students’.

He added: ‘We communicated with students as soon as we could to inform them of the situation, what it means to them and of course to unreservedly apologise for what is very disappointing and concerning news.

‘We hope the delay will be for as short a time as possible and we are taking a number of actions to source temporary alternative accommodation solutions in the short term whilst construction at Stanhope House is finished.’

The University of Portsmouth is not connected to the owner or developer of the building, which sits on the site of the former Co-op bank.

CGI of Stanhope House in Commercial Road in Portsmouth when the plans were submitted. Right, the building on September 10 in 2019. Picture: Crosslane/Habibur Rahman

CGI of Stanhope House in Commercial Road in Portsmouth when the plans were submitted. Right, the building on September 10 in 2019. Picture: Crosslane/Habibur Rahman

But it has been drawn into dealing with the problem. Crosslane has developed £4.47bn of student accommodation in 120 years of business.

A university spokesman said: ‘The university's primary concern is the support and welfare of our students. The university is working to secure alternative accommodation for any student wishing to be relocated.’

Rent starts at £154 a week for an up to 16 m sq room within a flat shared by four to six people, and hits £209 a week for an up to 30m sq studio.

:: Contact Prime Student Living on (023) 8130 0206 or portsmouth@primestudentliving.com for temporary accommodation.

:: Contact the university student housing team on (023) 9284 3214 or email student.housing@port.ac.uk

:: University of Portsmouth Students' Union staff will be at the Stanhope House building site all weekend.