A number of bodies and individuals have expressed concern over various private student accommodation developments planned for construction in Glasgow’s West End and City Centre.
Both commercial and political organisations have voiced their opposition to what they see as an excessive growth of student accommodation in the city of Glasgow.
A 326-bed student flat block slated to be built in place of the High Street Old College Bar has attracted heavy criticism from CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). CAMRA, Britain’s largest consumer organisation, released a statement saying it “objects strongly to the proposed demolition of the Old College Bar, High Street.”
Reasons cited for the bar’s preservation included its historic status as “the oldest public house in Glasgow”, as well as its location “in the city’s oldest street” and its importance as a community hub.
Additionally, a 286-bed block planned for Dunblane Street has received 56 letters of objection from residents.
The Royal Conservatoire flats, to be used by music and drama students, will be built in place of a former Dunblane Street warehouse, now used for off-street parking. Among the arguments are concerns of anti-social behaviour and noise pollution from students, in addition to some taking issue with the student block’s density and potential impact on nearby buildings.
Members of Glasgow City Council have addressed these complaints, with Councillor Liz Cameron commenting that she found it “strange” that there were objections to musical instruments being played in the area. Councillor George Redmond says he views the worries of anti-social behaviour from students as offensive to the student population, highlighting students’ substantial contribution to both Glasgow’s economy and image.
Sandra White, MSP for North Kelvin, recently held a public meeting in January to gather opinions about the general rise of private student accommodation in Glasgow, stating that “Every single piece of spare land in the West End and the city centre is being taken up by student accommodation… We are being swamped.”
Speaking to the Glasgow Guardian, Ms. White emphasized that “No one (is) against students, whatsoever”, instead highlighting the lack of student integration and business practices of private accommodation companies as the key issues.
Describing the involved companies as strictly businesses, she spoke of an “Overwhelming concentration of private accommodation buildings… they don’t pay business rates, so what do they contribute to the local economy at all?’
Another key issue raised at the public meeting was a lack of integration with the community by students, with Ms. White saying that the private accommodation buildings do not lend themselves to integration, thanks to the wide range of facilities inside, such as gyms and cinemas.
However, Ms. White continued to say that “there is no reason for students to come out and mix with the community because everything’s inside… one student (at the public meeting) described it as like going into a prison – you go inside but you don’t want to come back out.”
In response to student concerns over accommodation costs, Ms. White claims to be talking to housing associations such as the Wheatley Group, raising the point that “most students need to go to private lets, which can be two to three thousand pounds upfront at times and not all great conditions.”
“Businesses are not doing it for the sake of students… those students who can’t afford the rates are being pushed farther out. (We want) good student accommodation which is affordable as well as making a contribution to the local economy.”