Green light for major student development in Birmingham

CGI of plans to build 523 student bedrooms in Elliott Road, Selly Oak
CGI of plans to build 523 student bedrooms in Elliott Road, Selly Oak

A new development of more than 500 student bedrooms in Birmingham has been approved by city planning chiefs.

Watkin Jones, developer and manager of residential property to rent, has won consent for its canalside scheme at the corner of Selly Wharf and Elliott Road, in Selly Oak.

The project will see the demolition of several units on Selly Oak Industrial Estate and the construction of two new blocks up to six storeys in height, containing 135 studios and 388 bedrooms in shared flats as well as social space.

Work will also include improvements to the canal towpath, both in front of the building and between the site and Bristol Road bridge, including new lighting and better signage, as well as increased visibility and widening of the towpath in front of the site.

Sports facility Revolution Gymnastics will continue to operate from the development site with Watkin Jones vowing to help the club find a new, long-term home as part of the planning consent.

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The developer said the project’s residents were expected to drive around £2.6 million of additional spending a year in the local economy.

Chief investment officer Alex Pease said: “This is a superb scheme that will create new homes for students, reduce pressure on local housing, boost local businesses and transform the canalside for everyone to enjoy, creating long-term value for the local community.

“Residents will be able to cycle along the canal to the University of Birmingham in under ten minutes and the centre of Birmingham in under 25 minutes, adding to the sustainability of a development that is designed to minimise its impact on the environment.

“Developments like this are a great example of how to use brownfield land to make sustainable urban living attractive and meet the growing need for new homes.”

The development, which has been designed by Birmingham-based Glenn Howells Architects, was approved by nine votes to one at the latest meeting of Birmingham City Council’s planning committee.

The plans had been opposed by a 140-signature petition as well as by ward councillors and Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe.

Residents had said families would move out of the area as a result of the development.

Speaking at the planning committee, Barry Toon, of the Community Partnership for Selly Oak, disputed that there was a pressing need for more rooms for University of Birmingham students as was suggested in a survey included in the application.

He said: “The local community strenuously object to this development because of the serious implications it has.

“This development is targeted purely at achieving […] 100 per cent council tax exemption. The city will receive no housing gain from it.”

He said the development would make the student population in the area “too high to sustain a balanced community”.

A planning officer told the meeting that the issue of student need had been “debated at length on a variety of applications” but the council accepted the applicant’s argument that there was a requirement for this accommodation.

She said the comment about a balanced community was a “valid concern” but that it was not felt the development would have an unacceptable impact on the local community.

BusinessLive – West Midlands