Church hall could be knocked down for student flats

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PLANS to build a four-storey student halls of residence could get the go-ahead tomorrow - despite concerns students may not even be able to live there.

Portsmouth City Council's planning committee will meet to discuss an application to build the 41-room halls, plus a doctor's surgery and pharmacy shop, in Fawcett Road, Southsea.

But the plans for the demolition of a former church hall and construction of the new building at Fawcett Road's junction with Heyward Road have raised concerns.

The Portsmouth Society said there were no guarantees the halls will be used solely for students.

In its written objection to the city council, it said: 'This is a private rather than University of Portsmouth development that will not guarantee lets to students.

'We don't think there's a need for more student accommodation now the student population is set to decline, and we question the appropriateness of a pharmacy when there is already one in Fawcett Road opposite the site.'

A proposal to build a similar sized-building, containing 21 flats, was refused by the council's planning committee in September 2007, in part because it was considered too large for the surrounding area.

The developers, Adrian and Phil Parnell, appealed and were told they could build the flats.

But in December 2008, they requested instead to build a three-storey halls of residence, containing 36 study/bedrooms.

The planning committee refused, because of the proposed building's appearance.

Once again, the Parnells appealed, but this time were refused permission by planning inspectors.

And in May 2009, the council rejected a proposal it described as 'very similar'.

The developers appealed, and were again refused permission.

But the latest plan is being supported by city council's planning officers.

The council's head of planning John Slater said in his report to councillors that it was not the fact it was planned as a hall of residence that was the problem but the overall design and its suitability to the area.