the growing number of students living in the Southside has become a thorny issue for the Capital.
The rejection of the £30 million plans to build a 579-bed halls of residence on the Homebase store site at St Leonard’s captures the problem in a nutshell. There were direct benefits to the immediate neighbourhood and the wider city. The proposals included a much-needed doctors’ surgery and rooms would have been offered at discount rates to Fringe performers while students were on their summer holidays. But the plans were rejected because many people – there were more than 120 objections – saw more cons than pros.
More generally, the city as a whole undoubtedly benefits from its growing number of students. Their spending supports many of the attractions we all enjoy, from cinemas to bars and restaurants and stores like Apple. Many stay after they graduate and go on to run our hospitals and other vital services. But the huge concentration of students in the Southside has changed the nature of the area, encouraging more pubs, kebab shops and pizza takeaways.
One thing is clear. The council’s current policy is not working – and the promised review has to be welcomed. No-one is happy with it, from the unhappy residents to the developers and everyone in between.
It is for a start far too blunt an instrument. The review needs to look at where exactly the current complaints about students’ noise and antisocial behaviour are coming from. Would it be helpful to draw a distinction between students living in shared flats, usually tenements, and those in managed accommodation?
It is only by solving the question of where best to provide student housing that we will ease the pressure on city centre accommodation being felt by local families as well. With the number of students wanting to study in the Capital growing all the time, this is an issue that won’t simply go away.