By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors were drawn into a heated debate over the impact of students on Beeston’s economy as they considered plans to convert an office block in the town into student accommodation.
Some Broxtowe Borough Councillors argued the area was already at capacity, with some streets now occupied with 100 per cent students.
Others said students brought significant spending power to the area and Beeston’s bustling night-time economy was ‘no accident’.
Some residents living next to the proposed development, at Broadgate House, at the junction of Broadgate and Humber Road, say their livelihoods would be ruined by constant noise and parking problems.
Applicant, Damian McGrath, of Broadgate House Ltd, also wants to add a fourth floor to the building as part of plans to turn it into an 84-bed student accommodation block.
This will create 17 cluster flats and nine studio flats in total, as well as providing off-street parking and a cycle storage area.
The council’s planning committee met on Wednesday, February 2, and approved the proposal after a debate.
Fiona Carter, who lives on Humber Road, spoke on behalf of residents. There have been 25 objections in total.
She told councillors: “There are many resident objections – a change from a nine to five, weekday office building to 24 hours, seven days a week, 84 student bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, loud music, visitors coming and going and people spilling out onto the Broadgate Park.
“It is alarming to read if this application is granted it could result in other residential properties not being converted into HMOs [houses of multiple occupancy].
“That random suggestion with no evidence is the key conclusion that tips the balance, ignoring your own report, which is your Article 4 directive, which says Sailsbury Street, Lower Road, Queens Road, therefore Humber Road and Coventry Road have been decimated by private landlords converting properties into HMOs.”
She said accepting this application would give “a green light” to other developers wanting to do the same.
Cllr Lynda Lally (Lab), representing residents in Beeston Central, said: “We have been fighting for our residents and I use the word fighting because I feel it is a fight. I also feel this is an overdevelopment of this building.
“Creating an extra floor is not necessary and I question the need to cram more bedrooms into this space.
“We constantly get told purpose-built student accommodation will save our family homes. Unfortunately, that is not happening.
“In the last year in Beeston Central we have seen a massive rise in family homes being sold to developers and that has now resulted in many streets with fewer residential houses and some streets 100 per cent HMO.
“This destroys communities.”
Cllr Philip Owen (Con) backed Labour’s Cllr Lally and demanded evidence which showed how many student houses had been converted back to family homes.
He said: “Every time we get one of these proposals – small house conversion or a larger new build – we are told to agree to this and no more family homes in Beeston will be subject to conversion into student accommodation. That is utter nonsense.
“There are acres and acres of land at University Park – if they want to provide student accommodation then build on that.
“The university want to build conference centres and hotels, not for students but for paying guests. They want to make even more money and the sufferers are the residents of Beeston.”
Cllr Greg Marshall (Lab) disagreed with Cllr Owen and said: “Beeston is bucking the national trend in shop accommodation and the night-time economy and able to attract significant investment.
“That is not an accident – that is directly related to the student population. The significant spending power they are bringing to Beeston and Broxtowe”
Cllr Tim Hallam (Lib Dem) added: “It is a difficult one.
“It is not fair to judge the application on that it is going to be hypothetically noisy. Whether the students are throwing parties – I don’t think the rooms are big enough anyway. I am supportive but sympathetic.”
Seven councillors voted in favour of the application and five councillors voted against it. It was therefore granted planning permission.