New Student Accommodation in Cardiff: Frequently asked questions

1 Why is planning permission given to so many new student accommodation projects?

Although the numbers have slowed in recent years, the number of students enrolling in Cardiff University and Cardiff Met alone have increased by 35% over the last 15 years. This is an increase of almost 15,000 students, meaning the city region's three universities now have around 65,000 students. Universities in Cardiff provide halls accommodation for 25% of the total student population so therefore there's a substantial market in the city for places for students to live. Current market activity for high density and high quality design reflects this demand.


2 Is the city in danger of reaching saturation point in terms of student accommodation?

Given the above information on student numbers, it is difficult to ascertain when demand has reached saturation point. Developers would not seek to develop accommodation if there was no demand or if the developments were unviable. Reports suggest that less students in Cardiff live in Purpose Built Student Accommodation than in other cities, implying that there is still some demand for this type of development.


The key role for the city is to ensure that we achieve the best developments we can, with levels of demand left as an issue for developers, as long as the buildings use, design and location are appropriate and align with Council policy aspirations. The developments not only provide new buildings and employment for the city, but help to ensure that there are alternatives to family housing being used by ever increasing numbers of students. Finally, through section 106 contributions, the developments help to fund improvements to the city; including public realm improvements, parks enhancements and community infrastructure.


3 Even if there is currently demand, what happens if this changes in the future?

In the event that student accommodation dramatically reduced in the future, it is recognised that developers may wish to convert some of their developments to other uses, such as hotels or as apartment accommodation. In this scenario, planning applications would need to be submitted and considered on their planning merits, meaning new contributions may be required from developers. In addition, policies such as those referring to residential design and flat conversions would be considered to ensure that any residential accommodation is of a suitable standard.


4 What are the benefits of these new student accommodation projects in terms of waste collection? 

Larger buildings have internal waste, refuse storage and other communal facilities more akin to private apartments/ hotels which make the management and collection of waste easier than with a high number of students concentrated in streets characterised by multiple occupancy. The buildings also tend to be new and purpose built, avoiding the problems associated with retrofitting modern waste collection into older buildings. Waste Management receive far fewer complaints about student accommodation blocks, than for HMOs. There is also a single source of accountability if waste is inappropriately presented for collection when students vacate the accommodation. Most student accommodation waste is partly collected via private contractors, meaning there is less drain on the city's resources.


5 What are the benefits for students of living in new city centre accommodation?

Students feel safer living in the city centre and they are also closer to businesses such as bars and restaurants which offer flexible employment opportunities. Some students however, may not wish to live in this type of accommodation - The key issue is that new developments provide choice, whereas in the past there was arguably not enough student accommodation for all who wanted it.


6 What impact will city centre student developments have on the local economy?

Students, student developments and their associated activities all contribute towards a thriving day-time and night-time economy. Examples show that they have an important impact on a city's economy, particularly for cafes, bars, and shops in university cities every year. Plus, many student developments also have ground floor retail (shop/café) uses which also contributes to local facilities and provides employment. In addition, the construction phases often last up to one year, providing reliable work for many local tradespeople.


7 Are there any benefits in terms of transport?

Yes, the city centre is the focus of university activities, which centralises where students want to live. The sustainable location of student developments, close to facilities therefore reduces travel demand, encourages active travel (walking and cycling) and reduces the need for car ownership. Though figures are not readily available, it is unlikely that students based in high density city centre flats have access to cars due to the limited parking spaces available. Easy access to main public transport networks is also a benefit for students living in the city centre. Whereas students in standard housing may anticipate operating a car, students in purpose built accommodation move in in the knowledge that parking is very restricted.


Additionally, the contributions made by developers are often used to enhance the city's transport infrastructure, from improved bus stops, to pedestrian crossings.


8 What's wrong with students living in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO's)?

There's nothing wrong with HMO's being a part of the mix in terms of student accommodation provision in Cardiff. But, previously because of a lack of alternatives there has been an over dominance and concentration of HMO's particularly in areas such as Cathays and Plasnewydd. The over concentration of student HMO's makes these areas less attractive to families/ smaller households because the houses are often too big, they are too expensive to buy, and there can be issues of anti-social behaviour associated with high concentrations of HMOs


9 Can the HMO over dominance situation be tackled as part of the planning process?

Yes, in 2016, the Council approved new Supplementary Guidance controlling the number and location of HMO's. In Cathays and Plasnewydd guidance stated that no more than 20% of dwellings should be HMO's within a 50 metre radius. This has led to less HMOs being developed in the area than previously expected, as planning permission is usually not granted for new ones.