In danger of creating a '¨student ghetto in city centre

Older readers will recall when Greetham Street was once one of the main thoroughfares leading into Guildhall Square, Portsmouth.

Thursday, 8th December 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:58 pm

Then came the Second World War, the blitz and, finally in the 1970s, the redevelopment of the city centre.

Greetham Street was chopped in half by the planners and it became a drab, nondescript backwater.

Take a look at it now. The city centre end of the street has been transformed by high-rise student accommodation. It is light, bright and buzzing with young life – young people who live there, not popping by for a few hours to patronise a club or bar.

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This is 24-hour new life breathed into the centre of Portsmouth – something politicians and The News have been demanding for years.

About 300 yards around the corner in Stanhope Road, the old Zurich Insurance tower block is currently being turned into another hall of residence.

And yesterday council planners approved another. This time a 19-storey block with 256 rooms. Oddly, the University of Portsmouth objected to the plan submitted by developers, on the grounds it had not been consulted.

All of this is good for those of us who want to see the centre of Portsmouth thriving after 5.30pm.

But what worries us is that the coagulation of thousands of students living in such a small area might be seen as social engineering, whether intentional or not.

However, the people of Portsmouth cannot have it both ways. For years residents, particularly in Southsea, have complained about students taking over swathes of the city’s housing stock and creating what they perceive to be ghettos.

But 3,300 new student beds within a mile’s radius in the city centre? Won’t this create exactly that?

This piecemeal expansion of student halls does not look as though it’s following any coherent strategy.

We need one – one drawn up by the council or the university or, preferably, both, in tandem.