Published: 06:00, 06 January 2021
An ambitious bid to build 935 student flats as part of a wider £51m development at the University of Kent has attracted a mixed response.
The proposal - which also includes a sports pavilion and squash centre - was submitted to Canterbury City Council last month.
It has been drawn up by the university and St Edmund’s School with the aim of addressing a so-called “severe” demand for purpose-built student accommodation.
But already critics have questioned the need for almost 1,000 extra student flats at a time when 2,200 student beds are already in the pipeline for elsewhere in the city.
The applicants say the project will encourage students to live on campus, freeing up more than 250 student houses in the city for other families.
But opponents who have written in objection to the development disagree.
Kathryn Nevell said: “There are far too many characterless enormous ugly buildings going up in Canterbury when they are not needed.”
Her concerns are shared by John Morgan, who wrote: “The economic benefits to Canterbury for large purpose-built accommodation like this are extremely limited, but the downside can be monumental.”
Reaching heights of six storeys, developers say many of the student flats will be converted into a hotel offering 240 beds and conference facilities in holiday time.
While the accommodation aspect of the scheme is proving contentious, the benefits of the sporting side of the projecthave been lauded.
Much-heralded is a new “state-of-the art” squash centre with five courts, which would replace the existing, rundown facility in Giles Lane.
Keen squash player Leon Labovitch, who is backing the project, says the “godsend” scheme will put the city on the sporting map.
“Let’s promote the wonderful sport of squash and make Canterbury a world centre for this game."
“The new club will become a UK centre for squash and squash excellence, offering countrywide and international competitions to take place right here in Canterbury,” he said.
“Let’s promote the wonderful sport of squash and make Canterbury a world centre for this game, enabling top players to develop and contribute to a long-hoped-for Olympic team to bring gold medals to Great Britain.”
Squash is not currently an Olympic sport but there are strong calls for it to eventually be put on the schedule.
Alongside the new squash centre, a sports pavilion is also proposed to be built for St Edmund’s on Jackman’s Field - an addition which would deliver changing and toilets facilities for the site.