The student housing market in Birmingham is being investigated by city planning chiefs as more and more apartment blocks spring up on the city’s skyline.
Selly Oak and Bournbrook have already been transformed as family houses are converted into student homes and now the city centre is being inundated with planning applications for student accommodation.
Council planning committee members have frequently raised concerns over the increasing number of student blocks being applied for and built wondering if there is enough demand.
The latest saw plans approved for the construction of a six-storey block for 61 students on the site of a former factory in Bridge Street West, Newtown.
Councillors asked if Birmingham’s student market was being saturated with huge blocks already under construction next to Lancaster Circus and Eastside and whether another one was needed.
Coun Fiona Williams (Lab Hodge Hill) said that students were finding the purpose-built apartments too expensive, opting for shared houses instead.
She said: “There are also eight million people living within an hour’s commute of Birmingham – more students are staying at home.”
Her colleague Coun Gareth Moore (Con Erdington) added that Newtown might be too far from Aston and Birmingham City Universities to attract students – especially as there are many places nearer.
But he was told it is about 25 minutes’ walk or seven minutes by bike away.
Developer Bosworth Properties, however, in a submission with their application, said there was a 21 per cent shortfall in student bed spaces – a figure disputed by the city council.
Planning officer Louise Robinson said: “It is something we are looking at.”
She promised that a full report, with proposals for any changes to planning policy, would be going to the committee in due course.
She said the student housing market was undergoing a transition following BCU’s move from Perry Barr to the city centre.
Birmingham has a student population of about 65,000, many of who are demanding quality accommodation.
At the top end of the market, student apartments cost up to £150 per week and come with en-suite bathrooms and shared kitchens, gymnasiums, common rooms and games rooms.
The Gun Quarter area in particular has become a hive of development by private operators in recent years as they look to tap into the thousands of students attending the nearby campuses of Aston University and Birmimgham City University.