Swansea councillors have criticised plans for the development of two blocks of flats for the city’s student population.
In the same meeting, however, councillors also criticised the number of applications for HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation, e.g. rent-by-room houses) which were being brought forward to the Council.
One block of flats would house 414 students off Jockey Street by the train station, the other would offer 519 bedrooms as part of a development on Kings Road. Both were criticised on the basis of their design, scale, and limited capacity for parking, with the Kings Road development causing further concerns as to how the rubbish generated by students would be collected.
The blocks near the train station and in the SA1 area would neutralize the need for 201 five-bedroom HMOs.
A planning agent on behalf of the applicant for the Jockey Street development has said that they were considering an appeal to the Council.
Despite the criticisms, the opposition of the Council’s planning committee was not unanimous.
Ryan Thomas, the city’s development, conservation, and design manager voiced his concerns to the committee following their criticism of the plans.
Following the committee’s comments, Mr. Thomas said: “I have got serious concerns about the reasons for refusal.”
“I have got serious concerns that the authority will be exposed to costs.”
However, Labour Councillor Paulette Smith was angered by Mr. Thomas’ comments. Referring to planning inspectors, she decried “being dictated to somebody outside our city who overturns our decisions.”
Other committee members used more colourful language, in reference to the pressure to accept more HMO applications. Ward members representing Uplands and St. Thomas argued that the city was being overrun by student houses.
Councillor Linda Taylor-Lloyd commented that the situation reminded her of the Falklands War, adding that the Council had ‘no backbone.’ Councillor Mary Jones argued that “We are being pushed into a corner and we can’t say ‘no’.”
Indeed, the Labour-led Council is split on the decision, and many of their comments echo years of debate over the heavy presence of student houses in the city, which some say force local people from their communities.
Eventually, Mr. Thomas convinced the committee to postpone its decision regarding the developments until the next Council meeting so that there would be more time to discuss concerns over the developments.
By Polly Manning