McGimpsey calls for strategic approach to student accommodation in Belfast

South Belfast Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Michael McGimpsey has welcomed the decision by the Northern Ireland Planning Service to recommend for refusal plans to construct 391 student flats in the heart of Sandy Row.

His statement follows a meeting with the Environment Minister Mark Durkan where the South Belfast representative outlined his and the local community’s opposition to the planning application.

In a statement Mr McGimpsey said, “I very much welcome the recommendation made by the Planning Service to refuse this application to construct 391 student flats on a very small site in the residential area of Sandy Row. The local community are united in their opposition to the application and have made very strong representations to the department throughout the planning process.”

“During my discussions with the Minister and planning officials I raised my concerns that there appears to be a lack of strategic planning in place across government and the universities to deal with student accommodation. The lifestyles of students and local settled communities are simply not compatible. We have seen this time and time again in areas like the Holylands where long term residents have been forced out of the area as they have seen their quality of life deteriorate as the student population has increased. We cannot allow this to happen in any more communities in Belfast.”

“There is clearly a place for managed student housing in the city but it is not in residential areas. There are plenty of commercial, brown field sites in the city centre which are much better suited to the lifestyles and requirements of young people coming to Belfast to study.”

In conclusion Mr McGimpsey said, “I welcome the decision by the Planning Service to recommend refusal of this application but I am demanding that a more strategic approach is taken to student accommodation across Belfast. These type of applications should not be looked at in isolation as this approach has facilitated the destruction of communities in the past. It is likely that this pressure on established residential areas is only going to increase with the developments at the University of Ulster. We must protect communities from such development.”

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