PLANS for towering halls of residence in the heart of Portsmouth have been unanimously approved.
Councillors voted in favour of the 23-storey student housing development, which will comprise nearly 600 bedrooms for students at the University of Portsmouth.
The as-yet-unnamed halls will be built on Surrey Road in Portsmouth’s city centre.
The tower, being proposed by Crown Student Living, will have 576 bedrooms, including 202 one-bedroom studios and 187 two-bedroom studios.
Situated between the Avalon House apartment block and Portsmouth and Southsea train station, the development will house several communal facilities for students, including a gym, a lounge, cycle storage, refuse disposal and a small cinema.
Portsmouth City Council’s deputy leader Luke Stubbs praised the increasing development of accommodation in the city centre, saying it lessens the pressure for housing in other areas of Portsmouth.
Cllr Stubbs said: ‘The view of the cabinet is that concentrating student development in the central area around the station square is a good thing for the layout of the city.’
The approval of more student housing follows a mixed reception to several recent proposals.
Flats being built in Greetham Street near Portsmouth and Southsea station by Unite will house 1,400 students, and the same firm’s project at Chaucer House aims to be a home for 480.
But while the 1,000-bedroom redevelopment of the Zurich House on Stanhope Road is due for completion later this year, plans to transform the former Brunel House in The Hard into student halls were rejected last year.
Councillors felt that the 40-storey tower, nicknamed the ‘Portsmouth Shard’, would not be in keeping with the surrounding heritage buildings.
During the committee, there were similarities drawn between Crown’s housing block plans and a previous proposal for a 228-bedroom hotel on the same site, which was approved in 2013.
Planning officer Alan Banting concluded that the proposal would ‘add vitality to the city centre and support its wider regeneration.’
He said: ‘In light of those similarities, officers consider that the proposal does demonstrate sustainable design of high-quality contemporary architecture and a sympathetic relationship to the setting of the listed railway station opposite.’
However, before the plans were approved, the Design Review Panel criticised the scheme as ‘poorly proportioned and detailed, excessively bulky and inelegant’.
The building currently on the site was used by Royal Mail for sorting parcel returns for about 30 years, but has been vacant since 2005. It is being demolished.