Student flats should be convertible into family homes, warns civic society

Palamon Court in Rhodaus Town is a prime example of purpose built student accommodation

The Canterbury Society is urging the city council to ensure that all new student flats are convertible into properties which could be used by families and couples.

It fears that student flats could be left empty if the city’s universities suffer from a drop in demand for places – even though there is a waiting list of 2,300 in the housing queue.

The society has particular concern over a proposal for 53 student flats at 68 Old Dover Road.

A consultation regarding the plan has just closed. Objecting to the proposal from Cityscape, the Canterbury Society says it “very strongly” recommends that “buildings are adaptable to alternative uses and to changing demographics”.

It continues: “This is especially important in the context of currently falling student numbers at Canterbury’s universities. All new student blocks should be convertible to alternative general housing types — ie flats and apartments of various sizes.

“The proposed building is extremely inflexible, with all accommodation in a series of bed-sit rooms.

“This arrangement will be almost impossible to adapt into different configurations — apart from perhaps conversion to a hostel for the homeless.”

Earlier this year, Canterbury City Council acquired student flats off Sturry Road with the intention of converting them into family homes.

Council leader Simon Cook said at the time: “These properties, which are close to the city centre, will provide a massive boost in the number of socially-rented homes across the district.

“Local people tell us affordable housing is one of their key priorities and high house prices and market rents are an issue.

“This is part of an ongoing programme to increase the number of council flats and houses that started in 2015.”

The Canterbury Society, however, continues to harbour concerns over developments in the city.

In its Vison: Towards 2030, it recommends that planing permission is only given where the properties can be converted. 

Architect Keith Bothwell, who has written to the council on the society’s behalf, said: “Key objectives of this vision are for new development to meet the needs of the local community, for genuinely affordable social housing, and for all new development to be sustainable in every way.

“In view of the climate crisis we are now in, the society is asking for all new housing in the district to be of the highest energy standard — that is, zero carbon.”


  1. So if student numbers are falling why are so many additional student accommodation schemes in the pipeline.? Long term investment,?

    By the way a great photograph of the truly beautiful Palomon Court

    Visitors to the Dane John Garden really enjoy the view they have of the building.I understand

    Alderman Simmonds would have approved I feel sure

  2. Theres more money in building student accomodation than there is residential,and as for the Howe barracks…the bidding was done under ‘ concealed’ bids and Redbridge bid more. Totally wrong to conduct matters in that way,should have been transparent. I see on a hoarding yesterday,student rooms to let …at a £155pw…no wonder they are empty.!!!🤡

  3. Student applicaions at the University of Kent for 2019/20 stand at 16,016, dramatically down on the 19,352 in the previous year which was down on the 20,391 in the year before that. The newer purpose built blocks will rent if they are in the right locations but this will leave the older blocks in Parham Road as white elephants relying on the council to help them out by paying top prices for worthless buildings and then paying a lot more to convert them into social housing. The strange thing is that the council started approving the blocks to satisfy residents who had too many HMOs in their area and now residents associations are complaining to the council about too many blocks and the council is ignoring them. Why the council is happy to continue to approve the construction of high risk blocks which are not readily convertable to anything else but student accommodation remains a mystery to many residents in Canterbury. Can anyone explain it? Especially as most HMOs which come up for sale are being bought by out of town investors and not by families.


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