Developers and planning authorities should think ‘adaptable’ when putting together proposals for any future student accommodation in South Wales.
That’s the view of property experts at the Cardiff office of Bruton Knowles who believe that while current demand focuses on supplying student accommodation, thought should be given to the medium and long term use of buildings that are popping up across the main University hubs of Cardiff and Swansea.
Aled Jenkins from Bruton Knowles believes planning departments should now enforce adaptable or alternative design policies on all future applications, so that should, for example, the student population dip, the buildings can be converted to what the market demands are at that time.
Having overseen numerous projects where old buildings were stripped for conversion, Aled has a full appreciation of what is possible.
Aled said: “We’ve heard a lot of negativity about all the new student accommodation that is being built across South Wales. Our view however is that each city should embrace these developments.
“They often replace tired and semi-occupied office buildings with newer, more vibrant looking buildings that sometimes improve the appearance of the city. However we should also ensure the buildings are designed so that they can be adapted for different uses should the need arise.
“While current demand for new buildings focuses on student accommodation, should this demand ever dry up, then making sure the building can be converted in to residential homes, social housing or even offices would be a much more sensible approach.
“Strengthening the ground floor structures so that the ground floor level can be converted to retail or a car park, making the windows uniform for future flats above, and installing surface mounted services are all simple solutions that can be incorporated to allow for future alternative uses by simple alterations. This should also make the building more attractive for future investors.
“The majority of the new student accommodation does not have parking. Should it ever be sold on, this would be one element that would need addressing.
“Installing a car park for example on the lower levels from the outset is therefore a sensible approach as the space can be rented out to a viable operator. Should the building ever be converted into offices, it would be more attractive for businesses looking to locate there as it will have space for workers to park.
“Or if it was converted to residential, occupiers would then have an allocated parking bay.
“It’s great that South Wales is attracting so many students. The new blocks are generating work for developers and builders and the students spend millions of pounds across the regional economy.
“Our view is that instead of bemoaning what seems like an endless stream of new buildings for the region’s students, energy would be better spent on coming up with clever designs to make sure these buildings are flexible for different uses.”