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Student block in Portsmouth on Wingfield House car park gets planning permission – despite fears there won’t be enough demand

Planning permission for the redevelopment of the former car park at Wingfield House was granted by the council’s planning committee on Wednesday this week, according to a report which said it would be a ‘positive contribution’ to Staunton Street.

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Photo: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 291121-15)

A member of the committee and cabinet member for housing, councilor Darren Sanders had proposed to reject it but was not supported by the other councillors.

“We have two applications where a developer of student accommodation is asking this council to change their applications because they simply cannot keep it as student accommodation and remain viable,” he said. “If developers come back to us and say ‘we can’t deal with this’ because the market isn’t there, that’s something we should be proactive about and look at in all apps.”

He also shared concerns raised by people living near the site who warned that the development would worsen problems of anti-social behavior in the area.

However, councilors said the council would not be able to defend a refusal if it was appealed through the Planning Inspectorate.

“I have real concern about this, but I don’t know what we as a planning committee can do about this,” Councilor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said. “I think we have to be blind to the market and that’s a problem not ours and I think it would be difficult to justify a refusal on those grounds on appeal.”

He added: ‘There is clearly a problem with people building student accommodation in the city that they cannot rent and we need to address this within the planning department.

He also cited examples of councils buying student accommodation from developers who had “struggled” to fill it.

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