The University of York is going to need more space for student accommodation in the coming years, according to its vice-chancellor.
Professor Charlie Jeffery said that a “very significant shift in student housing preferences” meant more young people were looking for managed accommodation blocks.
His comments, made at York’s Local Plan examination hearings, come as a debate rages on the city council about how much space is being given over to purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) and the student / local mix in residential streets.
Councillors recently criticised the volume of such accommodation, saying ‘We lack a coherent plan’.
Prof Jeffery said his institution had seen a significant growth in demand for places from both international and domestic students since 2018.
He added: “International students tend to prefer managed accommodation in residences.
“And we’re seeing growing demand for managed accommodation also among home undergraduate students beyond the traditional first year in halls, not least because of a tightening of private sector housing supply in the city – so we are going to need to build more residences.”
Prof Jeffery told the Local Plan inspectors that the university was booming despite Covid, but that its future plans could be hindered if the council does not give it enough room to grow.
He said that the university estimated that it generated around £2.5bn of added value per year.
Under the Local Plan, the council’s preferred new jobs target for the coming years is 650 per year until 2033, but Prof Jeffery said his university was already creating around 300 per year.
‘We are almost full’
He added: “After growth in the last decade, we have very little further development space, we are almost full.
“Our capacity to repurpose our older facilities is highly constrained by extensive listing both of buildings but in particular landscape, which really impacts on the development possibilities.
“Those constraints are balanced to an extent by some of the lessons we’ve drawn through Covid about how to work differently, which I think will reduce the square meterage which we’re going to need in future per employee.
“But that’s not going to outweigh the growing demand for managed student accommodation, nor the need to invest in new facilities.”
During the Local Plan examination hearings, David Manley QC, representing the university, said the council had not engaged with the university about its growth plans and how those will contribute to its overall jobs target – accusing the council of “flying blind”.
Scott Lyness QC, for the council, said: “We want to understand more about the university’s position – we can’t say that we accept their desire for more land to achieve the ambitions which they’ve set out in their evidence.”