A large student development, up to 11 storeys high, will be built in Swansea.
It will replace the Ty Nant office block, by the city’s High Street railway station, and accommodate 370 students.
Swansea Council’s planning committee approved the new scheme although long-serving member, Cllr Des Thomas, said he and colleagues were “underwhelmed” by its design.
The largely vacant Ty Nant office block is six storeys, and approval has already been given to demolish it. The student building will range from five to 11 storeys and be delivered by Watkin Jones, which built the 967-bed St Davids student complex off New Cut Road.
The new development will be the fourth purpose-built student accommodation scheme in the immediate area.
Ty Nant office block, High Street, Swansea, which will be demolished and replaced with student accommodation
The Oldway Centre on High Street has been converted into a 556-bed development, work is well-advanced on a 780-bed complex on nearby Mariner Street, while planning consent has been given for a 328-bed student building on Jockey Street.
Ty Nant has been occupied for years by HM Revenue and Customs and the Valuation Office Agency but both organisations, according to a marketing report submitted on behalf of Watkin Jones, plan to leave it this year.
The Savills marketing report said it had been very difficult to attract potential occupiers, partly because of the building’s low ceilings. It added that refurbishing the office block would cost in excess of £4 million.
Speaking at the committee meeting, planning agent Chris Marsh, on behalf of the applicant, said Watkin Jones would start work this autumn and complete the building by summer 2023, should planning permission be granted.
Mr Marsh said the building would be an “extremely high quality, sustainable development” which had been amended significantly following dialogue with council planning officers and the Design Commission for Wales.
The accommodation will have a landscaped courtyard area, 15 parking spaces and 190 bike spaces. Students will have to sign an agreement preventing them bringing cars to the site.
Another report on behalf of Watkin Jones said Swansea’s two universities could have 31,800 full-time students in 2025-26, based on long-term growth levels, and that more purpose-built accommodation will be required.
Cllr Peter Black said he felt the report didn’t place enough emphasis on the number of students from the Swansea area who lived at home. He added that he “was not exactly enamoured” with the design of the proposed development.
Cllr Mary Jones asked about the provision of disabled parking spaces, what type of glazing was proposed for rooms closest to the train station, and whether the building could potentially be adapted for one-bedroom flats for non-students in the future.
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Cllr Mike White said Watkin Jones, in his view, did not have the best track record in implementing the car element of tenancy agreements, and asked Mr Marsh to relay this to the company.
Council officers said there was a planning condition relating to noise and vibration levels, and that there was sufficient disabled parking space. The committee was also told that purpose-built student accommodation wasn’t generally adequate for use as permanent flats.
Before members voted to approve the scheme, Cllr Des Thomas, said: “I think it’s safe to say the committee is underwhelmed by the proposed design of the building.”
“I would have thought we could have come up with something a bit better these days, especially at the entrance to the city there.”
Watkin Jones will need to make a £35,000 public realm and highway contribution as part of the planning consent.