Fife Council has approved a planning application for private student halls on Abbey Walk.
The former Memorial Hospital will be demolished to make way for the 241 bed student accommodation. Bangor-based company Watkin Jones Group intends to build the flats, ranging in size from studio apartments to six-bedroom flats. The accommodation will be managed by Fresh Student Living, a specialist Student Accommodation company who also manage properties in Bangor, Derby, Glasgow, London and Liverpool.
The application had caused some controversy as there is also a need for affordable accommodation for families in St Andrews. Objections were submitted from the St Andrews Preservation Trust and St Andrews Community Council.
Amongst a number of reasons, the Community Council objected because they said: “As yet there is no defined need for any additional student accommodation within the town of St Andrews.”
They continued: “The StACC argued that all of these flats should be affordable housing for local residents. We object to the removal of any provision of affordable housing by this inappropriate student housing application.”
St Andrews councillor Brian Thomson attempted in to persuade fellow members of Fife Council’s North East Planning Committee to reject the planning application.
He said: “We have a huge affordable housing crisis in St Andrews. It is six years since any affordable housing unit was completed in the town.
“This site was zoned in the strategic development framework for residential use. To date the only housing developed here has been very expensive or available to people over a certain age as it has been classed as special needs housing.
“It is very disappointing that so far no family accommodation has come forward.”
But another of the town’s councillors, Dorothea Morrison, claimed permitting the development may free up housing elsewhere in the town by reducing demand among students for rented accommodation. A report by commercial property adviser CBRE estimated that there are approximately 4,500 students living in private rented accommodation in St Andrews.
President of the Students’ Association Chloe Hill commented: “Everyone is aware that more student accommodation is needed in St Andrews so I am pleased that plans have been approved – it should increase quantity, range and choice of private accommodation available to students, and will hopefully help reduce the high demand for private accommodation in the town. The lack of affordable housing in St Andrews is a real problem that needs to be tackled. Providing dedicated more student accommodation is potentially one way of easing the problem.”