By Lewis Collie and Craig Munro
Stirling Council has approved an application for new private student accommodation to be built in the city centre, but concerns have been raised over the development’s affordability for students.
The 153-bed scheme, being built at the Carters Yard site on Dumbarton Road, is to be divided between traditional ‘cluster hall’ accommodation with en-suite bathrooms, and studio flats. A gym, cinema, and laundry facilities are also included in the development.
Oxford based student accommodation firm CRM Students, who already operate sites for three universities in Scotland, are set to run the new Stirling development. A report from CRM included as a part of the application process says that the site is “likely to attract student tenants who are seeking good quality accommodation at attractive prices”.
However, there have been concerns raised about the affordability of the new development. After the application was first received in April of this year, then-Union President Dave Keenan criticised then-President-elect Astrid Smallenbroek for welcoming the development, citing the rent prices of CRM’s existing properties in Dundee and Glasgow.
Writing on his official Facebook page, Keenan said: “I would be cautious to welcome the development of student accommodation by a private provider given that private providers have a track-record of exploiting students to extract profit.
“If you give their website a quick glance, you will quickly find out that CRM students are not in the business of providing ‘affordable’ accommodation.”
CRM’s Scottish accommodation ranges in price from £108 per week at a property in Dundee to £265 per week in Glasgow. Stirling’s most expensive accommodation currently sits at £159 per week for studio flats in Beech Court, Juniper Court, and Willow Court.
When asked for comment by Brig after the application was first received in April, both Smallenbroek and then-VP Communities-elect Jamie Grant suggested that the Students’ Union should open a dialogue with the developers “to ensure that students’ needs are being met and their voices are being heard.”
In a statement this week, Grant and Smallenbroek admitted that talks had not yet taken place, with Grant saying: “Both Astrid and I had talked about reaching out to the developers, ensuring the Union and university both had their voices heard in these development discussions.
“The plans have not progressed to this stage without university input – I can’t speak for papers or matters discussed internally at University Court, but both Astrid and I are members of various University Committees around the topic of Housing.”
Grant later told Brig that following the news of the approval, he and Smallenbroek would be seeking a meeting with the developers.
A university spokesperson confirmed to Brig that the university met with the privately financed commercial developer in spring, adding that it “will continue to engage where appropriate”.
Aside from affordability, objections were also raised by Mercat Cross and City Centre Community Council “on grounds of design, need, parking and potential increased anti-social behaviour”.
The Council’s grant of planning permission specifies that development must begin within three years but no target has been set for completion.
You can view the full plans and approval documents here.