Published: 06:00, 08 June 2021
| Updated: 15:30, 08 June 2021
One of Canterbury's biggest-ever student accommodation schemes is primed to be given the go-ahead by councillors tonight after earning more than 70 letters of support.
The University of Kent and St Edmund’s School want to build almost 1,000 student flats, a sports pavilion and squash centre in Giles Lane, on the uni campus in the north of the city.
They say the need for more accommodation is "severe" and estimate the project will herald a £101 million boost to the local economy.
The plans, which were submitted in December last year, have gained the backing of the city council's planning department, yet the final say falls on decision-making councillors at a meeting on tonight.
With a recommendation to approve - subject to the developers contributing £3 million to mitigate pressure on city infrastructure - the 10-acre scheme looks set to be rubber-stamped.
A total of 72 respondents have written in support of the plans, while 16 have lodged objections - citing fears over the height of the six-storey buildings, the loss of income for landlords renting out student homes in the area and questions over the necessity for yet more university accommodation.
Many of the dozens of letters backing the proposals are from sport-lovers, who praised the planned “state-of-the-art” home for the outdated Canterbury Squash Club and a new sports pavilion for St Edmund’s on Jackman’s Field.
The council has looked favourably upon the sporting aspects, estimating that the new facilities will bring "major benefits" to the city.
The pavilion will allow cricket to return to Jackman’s Field, while the new squash club will boast five courts and a large warm-up area.
As for the accommodation side of the project, there will be 935 beds across five different student blocks, generating a “continuous income stream” for the cash-strapped university of about £6.5 million per year.
The flats will be used as a hotel for city visitors during the summer months when students are not on campus.
In recommending the planning committee approves the project, council officers said: "The proposed scheme would provide considerable benefits in the form of meeting a need for student housing, that would be closely linked to the educational provider and as a result would be integral to the university campus, well linked to the city by public transport and walking routes.
"It would considerably change the street scene of Giles Lane, nonetheless it would reflect the wider character of the campus and contribute positively to the need for student housing in the district in the appropriate location.
"Furthermore, there are benefits arising from the proposal in the form of improved and enhanced sports facilities that will be accessible to the public, but also to school and pupils."