A “HUGE” new 158-bed block of student accommodation has been proposed for a Winchester estate

The development, which would span 2,100sqm, entails the clearance of two business sites to make way for the new housing and office space on the corner of Winnall Manor Road and Winnall Valley Road, which is currently registered to two companies, Hampshire Plant & Access and Exsel Plant & Tool Hire Ltd.

A planning application was lodged with the city council by Merlion Capital Ltd on December 20, and the time allowed for objecting to the application expired on March 3.

A report supporting the application said: “The Winchester School of Art in conjunction with the University of Southampton intend to redevelop and expand their campus in the coming years. Increased investment and development into the campuses will lead to a growing student population in need of accommodation.”

In a previous response to objections regarding River Park proposals and the number of students in the city, the university said: “The increased numbers of students who may study in the city may lead to concerns regarding housing. The university is clear that appropriate provision must be made off site.”

Former Winchester City Councillor Rose Burns, who represented the area of St Bartholomew ward until 2019, labelled the proposed buildings as ‘huge and opportunistic’ and has said they will ‘dominate’ the location.

She said: “The development does not take any account of the Winnall Development Framework (2016), which was published after a very successful public engagement exercise and was subsequently adopted into the Winchester’s Local Plan. However, no substantive action has been taken towards its implementation.

“In Winnall, we already have a substantial amount of student accommodation: Erasmus Park, Balfour House, The Cavendish, SuperUni Housing - and many HMOs which made it through before the Article 4 direction.

“This proliferation of student housing was not envisaged in the Community Development Framework, nor was further office space supposed to be developed in this area of Winnall, which was all about sustainable communities and improvement in the quality of residential buildings and surrounding public realm.

“The aim was to maximise opportunities for active lifestyles and to retain and provide services that make communities attractive and safe places to live and work.

“Winnall is a great community, but I fear that too many students will upset the balance in the area and that accommodation and facilities for families in Winnall are not being given the priority they deserve.”

Sam Feltham, who lives in Winnall and is a Conservative candidate in the ward at the forthcoming election, said: “As a resident of Winnall, I can’t believe that we weren’t made aware of this very large development. It’s so disappointing to see the lines of communication between the council and the people are completely non-existent right now.

“This application demonstrates that the River Park proposals for the expansion of the School of Art have been widely discussed prior to releasing the plans to the public at a zoom meeting on November 1, 2021. Yet again, this will erode the public’s trust in the transparency of activities at the city council and its attitude to democratic accountability.”

Current Winchester City Councillor for St Bartholomew, Kathleen Becker, said: “We are aware of the planning application and over the past few weeks we have been knocking on a lot of doors in Winnall, so people are aware of it. Those living in the flats were all sent a letter, and certainly those living close by have all been notified.

“The main concern in Winnall is the number of HMOs which students tend to occupy, thereby taking them out of circulation as family homes. The residents we have spoken to bar one have been supportive of the application because they understand purpose-built student accommodation will relieve the pressure on those HMOs and get those properties back as family homes.

“It is an issue in Winnall, there are a lot of students in the area which is why we put an Article 4 direction in place to stop the conversion of more homes into HMOs and we are continually working with families to stop that from happening.”

Mrs Burns has said she had asked Cllr Becker alongside Cllr John Tippett-Cooper and Cllr Paula Ferguson, who also represent St Bartholomew, to refer the application to the planning committee for fear of it slipping through the cracks and passed through under planning officers’ delegated authority.

However, Conservative councillor for Colden Common and Twyford, Sue Cook, has since referred the matter to the committee.

Further details can be found of Winchester City Council’s website by searching the following application number: 21/03239/OUT.

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