COMMENT: Saturation for students, but still gaps in the market

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Many residents of Portsmouth might have breathed a sigh of relief on reading our story today that demand for student accommodation has fallen.

The revelation came as a property developer submitted a planning application to turn the city centre tower block, Wingfield House, into student halls of residence.

And not a modest plan. They want it to have 440 bedrooms and to add an additional three or four storeys to the block.

They had initially made the proposal on a smaller scale, in 2016, but a lot more student accommodation has been built in the city since then.

So much so that the leader of the city council, Cllr Donna Jones, said that saturation point was reached last summer.

The news comes after the university announced it would be closing its 600-bed flats at the Langstone Campus off Locksway Road in Milton due to the over-supply of student accommodation.

Recently-built student accommodation includes Greetham Street Hall and Chaucer House on Isambard Brunel Road.

Investment in student accommodation is good for the city’s economy as the University of Portsmouth expands, bringing in growing numbers of relatively affluent young people.

But if the mood of our letters pages over the past couple of years is anything to go by, local residents think more than enough has been done to cater for the student population.

A constant theme of letters to the editor has been: ‘So what about us?’

After focusing so much on one sector of our population it is high time the city council looked to address the under-supply of housing in our crowded city,

If a vacant city tower block could be turned into student accommodation then it could just as easily be turned into much-needed housing for local people.

Maybe not as profitable, but there is an undoubted social need here, and, surely, profit cannot be the sole driver of what gets planning permission and what doesn’t?