CONTROVERSIAL plans for more purpose-built student accommodation in Leamington’s Old Town have been given the green light.
Specialist student housing company Alumno Developments were looking to build on the old BT site in Althorpe Street, which currently houses an old warehouse.
The proposal was for 187 rooms in an L-shaped building alongside the Grand Union Canal just off Clemens Street, alongside Althorpe Enterprise Hub and Waterside Medical Centre.
Having announced their plans in July, the developers then held a public consultation event before submitting a formal planning application to Warwick District Council two months later.
But within weeks the scheme came under fire from campaigners, who said it would spell disaster for people living locally.
Concerns were raised about the already high numbers of students during term time while others said the construction of two four-storey buildings would be an eyesore, and out of keeping with others in the area.
Although broadly in favour of the scheme, Leamington Town Council expressed fears over the lack of parking provision.
Under Alumno’s initial plans, there were no plans for parking spaces to be included, which people said would lead not only to cars being parked in surrounding streets but also add to the already traffic-choked roads.
Alumno have since amended their plans to include 19 off-street parking spaces and 50 cycle spaces, but insist the overall scheme will be a car-free student development.
They plan to make students sign a tenancy agreement preventing them from bringing cars to the site with anyone who parks within a one mile radius of the development potentially facing disciplinary procedures, which could see them evicted.
Alumno insist the building will also have 24-hour on-site management to ensure residents have a point of contact should any problems arise.
The application had been recommended for approval by officers and members of Warwick District Council’s planning committee followed their advice – with six councillors voting in favour of the application and three against – at a meeting this week.
The developers must now finalise a legal agreement and subject to the completion of a number of conditions – including improvements to the canal towpath – works are likely to begin on site in the coming months.
David Campbell, managing director of Alumno Developments said: “I am very pleased we have gained planning permission.
“We carried out extensive research which demonstrated the need for student housing within Leamington Spa is growing year by year.
“Not only will our plans help improve the unmaintained canal side area, it will also bring significant economic benefits to the town and provide an alternative form of accommodation to students that might otherwise choose existing properties in residential areas as the University grows.”
Thousands of students attending the University of Warwick live in Leamington during term time and a considerable number of these are in the Old Town area.
In 2012 Station House was built opposite the railway station providing purpose-built accommodation for some 400 students.
And although it has been said students provide a boost for the local economy, they have also been the focus of a number of problems over the years including increased noise levels and leftover rubbish at the end of term.