Published: 18:29, 20 June 2021
| Updated: 18:35, 20 June 2021
A 935-bed development on the University of Kent campus will help get students out of Canterbury’s residential “ghettos”, it has been claimed.
The £101 million project for Giles Lane was debated at a recent planning committee meeting and waved through unanimously by councillors.
The plans, which also involve the construction of a new sports pavilion and city squash centre, are hoped to address predicted accommodation pressures caused by increased student numbers.
UKC currently has about 5,000 students living on campus, with another 10,000 elsewhere in the city.
Speaking at the decision meeting, Peter Pentecost - financial improvement officer from the university - said: “We are looking to grow the student numbers at UKC and that will put even more pressure on accommodation spaces.
“This development will play extremely well to the post-graduate community we are seeking to get to come. It’s a very important opportunity.
“We’re normally 98% full in our accommodation units. Obviously this year we haven’t been but we hope next year to be back up to 98% and we will be bursting.
“It’s also a great opportunity for Canterbury.”
During the summer months when students are not on campus, the flats will be used as a hotel for city visitors and a venue for conference meetings.
Having students living on campus was a factor welcomed by the committee, with university accommodation being the preferred option rather than houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).
A multitude of different student schemes have been approved in recent years, in areas across all four corners of the city.
Cllr Ashley Clark (Con) said: “There is much here to commend. Many of us are saddened by what some people describe as the student ghettos that exist in certain areas.
“If this does something to encourage those residential areas to come back to normal residency that will help.”
Connie Nolan (Lab) also praised the on-campus proposals.
“In the 1960s, the university was built as a campus university and it has had a lot of success over the years in attracting students,” she said.
“I support the application because it is bringing the idea of campus life back to the university.”
Cllr Nolan, who works at Canterbury Christ Church University, says not having any on-campus accommodation at CCU is a negative, and told the committee how the university was previously interested in snapping up the former Chaucer School site before Barton Court acquired the land.
The Giles Lane project - devised by both UKC and St Edmund’s School - will also see the creation of a new “state-of-the-art” home for the outdated Canterbury Squash Club and a new sports pavilion on Jackman’s Field.
The pavilion will allow cricket to return to field, while the new squash club will boast five glass-backed courts and a large warm-up area.
It is set to become a “world-class” destination for squash which will attract international players and develop talent of all ages in east Kent.
Members of the squash club said they “could not overstate” how transformative the plans will be for the centre.
In the application process, 72 respondents wrote in to provide their support for the plans, while 16 lodged objections.
The bid was backed by all 13 planning committee members.