Published: 12:00, 25 August 2017
An ambitious new plan for a 150-bed student block lining the city’s ring road on the site of a former school has been drawn up, the Gazette can exclusively reveal.
The development, if approved, forms the next phase of student housing in Rhodaus Town, the first being the recently launched 540-bed Palamon Court, which will accept its first intake of students next month.
This latest proposal, for which there will be a public consultation next month, takes in the neighbouring St Mary Bredin School building, which would need to be demolished for construction to go ahead.
Critics warn tearing it down would remove a piece of history.
But Guy Hollaway, the architect behind the designs, says the city is in desperate need of student accommodation to reduce the huge number of houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) and believes creating student homes of this type will release houses back to the community.
He also points out that the school building does not have listed status.
“The student population of Canterbury is 40,000 and 65% of that is in an HMO,” Mr Hollaway said.
“That is changing the nature of the city.
“To deal with the incredibly high demand in housing, the government has set extraordinary housing figures. There is huge demand on green belt because we’re not addressing the HMO issue.
“If you can build high-quality student accommodation within the city, where the students want to be and can live for the whole of their degree, we can then allow the HMOs to be released.”
Mr Hollaway, who designed Folkestone’s Rocksalt restaurant, says it would not be economically viable to convert the school building.
His plans, he says, take inspiration from Tudor, Edwardian, Georgian and medieval architecture in Canterbury but are designed in a contemporary style.
“We wanted to do something different, we didn’t just want to replicate Palamon,” he said.
“We want someone to drive past and say ‘that feels like Canterbury’, that it feels like it belongs.
“The new building would have 150 beds and we would be looking at a cluster model, which would have six or seven bedrooms and a shared kitchen and living space.
“There would be zero parking so no cars. Students living there would be able to use the Palamon facilities next door, like the gym and work spaces.”
But the Canterbury Society has some reservations about the proposed scheme.
Chairman Jan Pahl said: “It’s a shame that road is becoming a tunnel of high risers. Student accommodation is needed but does it have to be so tall?
“The vision has always been that the Cathedral should rise majestically over the whole cityscape, so it appears in all its glory. But look at St Paul’s, it’s got all these skyscrapers around it. We don’t want the same thing happening to our Cathedral.”
Mr Hollaway is hosting a three-day public consultation ahead of the planning process.
The drop-in events will be held at Palamon Court on Friday, September 8, 12pm-6pm; Saturday, September 9, 10am-4pm; and Sunday, September 10, 10am-2pm.
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