Call to put student housing in Cork City on hold to stop ‘ethnic cleansing’ of communities

There have been calls for a halt on the development of student accommodation in residential areas of Cork City until a coherent planning policy on such projects is adopted.

Crows nest demolition

Cllr John Buttimer (FG), who said allowing large-scale student housing in certain residential areas was like “ethnic cleansing” and was “choking and suffocating traditional residential communities”, said a temporary ban on planning decisions on these schemes is vital to prevent a “developer-led free-for-all”.

He made the call in the wake of a material contravention of the city development plan on Monday which gave the green light to a 348-bed student complex near CIT in the western suburbs.

Several councillors supported his view, including Fianna Fáil’s Seán Martin, who said such developments have eroded family life in residential areas around CIT and UCC.

Independent Cllr Mick Finn also backed calls for a tighter policy on where such student accommodation complexes can be built.

Mr Buttimer stood over his “ethnic cleansing” comments yesterday and said the city needs to adopt a coherent planning strategy to guide the future development of student accommodation in residential areas.

During Monday’s council meeting, 25 councillors voted to materially contravene the development plan and change the business and technology zoning of the former O’Mahony Packaging Building on the Melbourn Road to residential, clearing the way for Montesa Ltd to build 63-student apartments over five blocks ranging in height from three to five storeys high on the site.

Mr Buttimer said he supported the development of quality student accommodation in the right place and pointed out that he was among the councillors to vote in favour of the project.

“I am all in favour of appropriate development, but we need a coherent policy on this kind of development,” he said.

“We need to tighten up our control and regulation of this kind of development.

“Our planners should be very slow to consider future projects in residential areas until we have a solid policy framework in place.

“It is my view that we should have none built in residential areas until that policy is in place.”

Mr Buttimer urged city management to start work immediately on the development of such a policy and said the authorities in UCC and CIT should be part of the process.

“These institutions can’t be allowed to continue to develop and expand in the absence of a coherent policy on student accommodation, transport and parking,” he said.

In 2015, a Higher Education Authority (HEA) commissioned study found there were 3,788 on-campus student beds available in Cork — 813 public and 2,975 private. 

Earlier this year, Cork City Council said there are around 27 student apartment complexes across the city, providing accommodation for up to 4,500 students. But recent estimates suggest there is a 1,000-bed shortfall in the city.

The HEA said the availability of campus accommodation in the main urban areas of Dublin, Cork, Galway, and to a lesser extent Limerick, is a prerequisite for attracting new overseas students.

In the pipeline

There are around 27 student apartment developments on and off campus in Cork City, providing accommodation for up to 4,500 students.

However, recent estimates suggest there is a 1,000-bed shortfall in student accommodation in the city.

It has led to a surge in the number of planning applications for off-campus student accommodation in recent times.

Planning permission granted:

  •   Crow’s Nest site — 43 apartments 
  •   Brookfield site — 17 apartments 
  •   Carrigrohane Rd, former Coca Cola plant — 92 apartments 
  •   Former Muskerry service station, Lancaster Quay — 30 apartments 
  •   Melbourn Rd — 63 apartments Applications awaiting decision, or under appeal:
  •   Copley St — 33 apartments 
  •   Beamish and Crawford site — 61 apartments  
  •   Dorgan’s Rd/Magazine Rd — seven housing units 
  •   Farranlea Rd — 62 apartments 
  •   Bandon Rd — 49 apartments 
  •   Former Square Deal furniture site — 242-bed project

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