October 27th, 2016

Call to curb growing student population in Leamington’s Old Town

Call to curb growing student population in Leamington’s Old Town Call to curb growing student population in Leamington’s Old Town
A CGI of more student accommodation in Old Town, which was given the green light earlier this year. (s)

CALLS have been made to curb the explosion in the student population of Leamington’s Old Town.

SoLAR (South Leamington Area Residents) was alarmed to discover the number of Warwick University students living in Leamington had tripled over the past 15 years.

It followed Freedom of Information requests which showed the number of students had rocketed from just over 1,600 to more than 5,200.

The reason is down to the massive expansion of the university during those years, but with most students setting up term time home in the south Leamington area, it has raised fears from residents at the prospect of being overrun by students.

A SoLAR spokesman said: “We like having students in our community – up to a point – but this uncontrolled and unplanned growth isn’t good for students or local residents.

“Warwick University has nearly doubled in size over the last 15 years but only increased its on-campus accommodation by about a quarter – so by 2015, 70 per cent of its students can’t live on campus.

“So without its citizens ever being asked, Leamington finds itself underwriting the University’s expansion by providing housing for over 5,000 of its students, mostly in south town.

“Studies have shown the massive effect it has on the housing market, the local economy, the prevalence of anti-social behaviour and above all, the ties that bind a community together.”

The concerns follow Warwick District Council giving the green-light earlier this year to plans for new student accommodation alongside the Grand Union Canal to house 200 students.

In 2012 Station House was built opposite the railway station providing purpose-built accommodation for some 400 students.

SoLAR this week sent an open letter to Warwick District Council leader Andrew Mobbs demanding something be done to curb the ever growing student population.

Coun Mobbs told The Observer he was currently considering SoLAR’s concerns before responding formally but stressed how important both Warwick and Coventry universities were to the district.

He added: “We have two leading universities locally which are good for our economy, both from the point of the educational experience, and the positive effect on our town centres, from retailers to restaurants.”

Warwick University has told SoLAR it cannot provide details of future plans for on-campus accommodation as the information is “commercially sensitive.”

There are currently 6,200 on campus places that usually accommodate all first year undergraduates, together with some third years, postgraduates, and other students. Just under 14,000 undergraduates study at Warwick in total.

University spokesman Peter Dunn said: “We will always look to see where we can build more on campus accommodation as that is the most popular option for students.”

Mr Dunn added the university also worked hard to ensure good relations between students living off campus and local residents.

This included the university managing a number of properties owned by private landlords in towns such as Leamington.