Cork Mayor: Student accommodation plan gives 'two fingers' to locals

Cork Mayor: Student accommodation plan gives 'two fingers' to locals
View from proposed Bandon Road Student accommodation. Artist impression supplied by Pedersen Focus

Proposals to increase the scale of a student apartment development overlooking the Lough in Cork city has been described as giving "two fingers" to locals by the Lord Mayor of Cork.

Cllr Mick Finn has said that plans to build 57 student apartments, including some 419 student beds, on Bandon Road will create an imbalance that will threaten other communities in the area.

Developers Lyonshall has previously received planning permission from Cork City Council to develop a complex of 324 beds on the site, which is adjacent to the Lough Church and just minutes from UCC.

This week, they submitted a revised application under An Bord Pleanála's fast-track Strategic Housing Development (SHD) Scheme, with the plans now including 57 student apartments and 419 beds. In its application, Lyonshall say the development will answer a need for more student accommodation in the city, freeing up stock in the private market in the process.

The National Student Accommodation Strategy claims that for every four students in purpose-built accommodation, an extra private home is freed up. It has targeted the construction of 21,000 new beds by 2024.

There are currently more than 800 beds under construction in Cork city, while planning has been granted for an extra 1,966, including the smaller 324-bed Lyonshall plan on Bandon Road.

Lyonshall argues that despite these approvals, there will still be a demand for an additional 815 beds by 2024 on the basis of a projected increase in student numbers in that time.

In its application, Lyonshall also details a management plan for the development which it envisions to be operational from September 2021 if approved. This includes an on-site 24-hour staff and security presence. The development would also include just 22 car parking spaces which would be restricted to staff, visitors and residents with additional needs. There will be no parking allocation for residents and just 210 bicycle spaces for the 419 residents.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the developer said that the revised scheme "has full regard to the concerns of local residents which were comprehensively assessed by Cork City Council and An Bord Pleanála in their previous decisions to grant permission".

The initial application had caused concern in the local community. It prompted protests from some residents who feared that the influx of students would potentially damage the area.

Cllr Finn lives near the site of the proposed development and has represented the area for 10 years. He criticised proposals to increase the size of the development.

The original application was amended for resubmission by the developers because of concerns raised by local residents over massing and over-concentration of units in a predominantly residential sitting," he said.

"This is really a ‘two fingers’ to locals who are concerned about the crumbling of their communities. Nobody disputes we need additional student units and there are several hundred already underway in the vicinity. But there are equally pressing needs of families who need homes and my worry is that student units instead of houses for families will have a severely detrimental impact on schools, sports and social groups in this area.

"The proliferation of student units without a matching supply of residential will create an imbalance that will threaten the core, year-round strength of our existing communities that have evolved over decades."

Members of the public can make submissions on the plan until February 14, with An Bord Pleanála required to make a final ruling by May 2.

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