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Council to limit student housing

Oxford Council has unveiled new plans that aim to control the spread of student housing in the city.

The council’s proposals, which have been approved by a government inspector, plan to restrict the development of new student accommodation to the city centre.

The plans aim for there to be no more than 3,000 students from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford living outside of university-provided accommodation.

In her report, planning inspector Shelagh Bussey highlighted “the tension that exists between provision for student accommodation and general purpose housing”. She also spoke of the need “to strike a balance between these two uses that often compete for the same sites to ensure that housing, and particularly affordable housing delivery, is not compromised.”

She added, “This conflict is exacerbated by the growing trend for colleges not associated with the two universities to locate and expand in Oxford, building on the ‘Oxford’ name, for which speculative student accommodation is being provided. The intention is that this would free up homes that are suitable for the general housing market.”

The plans also acknowledge that purpose-built student accommodation must be away from residential areas to minimise disturbance. The council proposed that student accommodation should be mainly located in the city centre, or adjacent to a main thoroughfare, to relieve pressure on residential streets. Current plans are to impose a cap of 20% on the number of houses of multiple occupations (HMOs) allowed in any 100-metre stretch of residential road.

A spokesperson for Oxford City Council applauded the plans, adding, “Public consultation revealed a local concern that having halls located in quiet residential streets can mean that some anti-social behaviour affects other residents at night. The Council responded to this by directing halls away from quieter residential streets. Whilst there are some limits on the location of student halls, our assessment did not consider that this unduly restricted opportunities for student accommodation in appropriate locations in Oxford.”

A spokesperson for the University added, “The 3,000 figure is not new and the collegiate university is in the process of expanding its provision of housing for students by building new accommodation, in order to stay below this threshold and ease the burden on Oxford’s rental market. The Castle Mill student accommodation project is the latest example.”

Rio Jones, Co-Chair of the Oxford Unviersity Lib Dem Society, claimed, “This is not only going to affect students. By setting a cap like that you are also hitting young professionals working in the city who can’t afford a house of their own in a place where housing is already in short supply. This could have really harsh consequences for already struggling tenants.

“This cap is essentially saying, ‘we don’t want too many of your lot in this area’, when I don’t think that students and young people are necessarily the creators of ‘disturbance’. I really do think these proposals should be a cause for concern for students and young people throughout Oxford; and having your own circumstances sorted shouldn’t be an excuse to not care.”

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