Concern over ‘monolithic’ new student housing block overlooking rest garden

The former Royal Mail building on Bath Street will be replaced by a taller building housing student accomodation.
By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter

Controversial plans to demolish a former Royal Mail sorting office and replace it with a 13-storey student block described by a councillor as ‘monolithic’ have been approved.

More than 20 objections were lodged against the Bath Street development, which will stand around 140 feet tall and house 692 student beds.

Councillors sitting on Nottingham City Council’s planning committee said they hated the design but were in a “strait-jacket” when it came to rejecting it.

They said there were no sufficient grounds for refusing the application, and if it were refused on design grounds, it would be thrown out on appeal. This would then end up costing the council a significant amount, they added.

Talking on behalf of residents in St Ann’s, Cllr Dave Liversidge (Lab) called the building “monolithic.”

He said it would cause “a massive change in the local community” increasing the student population in this area of the city by more than 50 per cent.

He was backed by local residents and Nottingham Civic Society, which aired concerns over the height of the building, the effect on residential properties, and the noise and anti-social behaviour it will generate.

There were also concerns it would over-shadow St Mary’s Rest Garden, which houses a monument to Nottingham’s 19th century bare-knuckle boxing champion Bendigo Thompson.

But the council’s planning committee approved the 692-bed student development when they met on Wednesday, August 18.

The Bendigo Building will be a mix of studios and four to six bedroom flats, with six car parking spaces and 312 cycle spaces.

There will be two commercial units on the lower ground floor.

Planning officers have said there is a need to maintain an ongoing supply of additional student bedspaces to meet “increases in the number of students attending further and higher education courses in the city.”

They also say high-quality purpose-built accommodation attracts students out of residential areas such as Lenton and the Arboretum.

Godwin Developments, who are in charge of the scheme, said the former Post Office sorting office has been vacant for almost 20 years resulting in “serious deterioration” and “cannot be refurbished.”

They argued the height of the building is “no taller than the previously approved planning application in the location.”

At the planning meeting, Cllr Sally Longford (Lab) said: “I am quite unhappy about this scheme. I think the architecture is uninspiring.

“I think we should be pushing for a better quality of design.  We will have this huge building over one of our special green spaces.

“It seems a terrible shame to allow something this dominating and heavy blocking the skyline.”

Councillor Wendy Smith (Lab) added: “To me it looks like a series of boxes with windows but when I see the buildings in reality they have looked a lot better.”

Councillor Gul Nawz-Khan (Lab) added: “I am also unhappy with the design. It just looks like a big brown block of bricks.”

Councillor Kevin Clarke (Nottingham Independents) described the development as looking like just another “lego building” in the city and was the only councillor to reject the plans.

Councillor Graham Chapman (Lab), chair of the planning committee, said there had been improvements to the designs over the last few weeks.

He said recommendations should be made as part of the approval to look into the brickwork and appearance of the building.

He said the council were “in a straitjacket” over its decision and it would be lost on appeal if they rejected the proposal on design grounds.

“Our justification is paper thin,” he added. “If we do not accommodate students coming here they will move to the private sector residential lets. We are trying to deflect that.”

He said the two universities keep on increasing numbers and therefore purpose-built student accommodation in the city is needed to house them.

The application was passed by councillors.

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