Fears of student invasion with mammoth new Islington development

ALMOST 1,000 new university rooms are set to be built on a mammoth new development – as fears mount that the borough is being flooded with student housing.

City University wants to build 899 student rooms across a series of blocks up to 16 storeys high in Goswell Road, Finsbury.

The proposed development would be the latest in an explosion of student housing across the borough.

Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Islington Council, has warned that Islington is already at “saturation point”.

He said: “My view has been for some considerable time that Islington is at saturation point for student accommodation. Now is the time to say that enough is enough. The pressure that it puts on local facilities and services is massively underestimated.”

And the Labour-run council is so worried about the problem that it is about to ban all future student housing developments apart from those in the immediate vicinity of City University in Northampton Square, Finsbury, and London Metropolitan University in Holloway Road, Holloway.

Last year, council planners estimated that the number of purpose-built student rooms in Islington would reach almost 8,000 within the next few years – meaning that nearly a third of all 18 to 24-year-olds living in the borough would be temporary university students.

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One of the reasons for the influx of student housing is because of a loophole that means developers do not have to provide 50 per cent affordable housing within a student housing scheme, whereas they are required to do so if they are only building private flats.

The latest application is for 899 student rooms, a new teaching block and a new leisure centre. They would be built on an existing City University-owned site in Goswell Road, which is currently home to 487 student bedrooms and the Saddlers Sports Centre.

Councillor Stacy believes City University should be looking to make use of the existing student housing in the borough. He said: “Why aren’t they maximising the student accommodation that has already been built or already has planning permission? Why do they need more?

“Transport and health services can’t take the influx and while the majority of students do not cause any trouble, having 900 students in one location really does raise issues for me in terms of rowdy behaviour.”

Local resident Leo Chapman, of Dufferin Street, Finsbury, added: “The proposed development is in a densely populated area and one has to wonder whether 899 rooms is too many. How is the fairly ancient sewage system in the area going to cope?”

But while Councillor Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for regeneration, agrees that Islington is being swamped by student housing, he believes this is one of the few proposed developments that is justified.

Councillor Convery said: “We are on the brink of adopting a policy that puts a stop to student development except for around City and London Met universities.

But in this instance, this development is around the university and is on university land. Unlike a lot of applications we have had, it’s clearly for City Uni students – its not for central London universities such as Imperial or King’s. Of all the student applications that have come in over the past three to four years, this is one that makes sense.”

City University’s Student Union added that the new development was much needed.

President Amish Patel said: “The new housing development plan is long overdue. The current site is an eyesore in the community and no longer meets the needs of students today effectively.

“The new design will incorporate more attractive social space that should ideally prevent students from leaving the site due to boredom.

“Private student housing developments do not guarantee exclusivity for City students, making it harder for the university to ensure all standards, services and expectations are at the level students require.”

City University believes the new development will benefit students - and give the area a facelift.

A spokesman said: “Historically, City University London has not been able to offer halls of residence accommodation to as many of our students as have wanted it. Many City students have had to take the option of living in private rented accommodation around the borough of Islington.

“This proposed development gives more of our students the opportunity to live in modern, safe and environmentally-friendly student accommodation close to the university. They will also be able to use the new sports centre, which is part of the development and which will also be available for use by members of the local Islington community.”