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Bid for Preston key workers to move into student halls appears to have stalled

Posted on - 4th May, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Housing, Preston Council, Preston News, UCLan
Leighton Hall
Leighton Hall

A bid to allow key workers to live in accommodation that was purpose built – and reserved exclusively – for students in Preston appears to have stalled.

It is six months since an application was lodged with Preston City Council for permission to change who could rent a room in Leighton Hall, at the heart of the city’s university quarter.

When the authority gave the green light to the 298-capacity development, on Leighton Street, back in 2004, it was on the basis that the building could be occupied only by those “registered as full time students at a recognised educational establishment”.

Read more: Hope for Preston Guild Hall foyer to open this year as five years of closure draws near

However, last October, an applicant identified as Leighton Hall Managements Company Limited (LHMC) sought approval to amend that rule, in order to permit key workers such as nurses and social care staff also to take up residence in one of the block’s 69 flats.   In documents submitted to town hall planners, the firm argued that the shift was vital to ensure “the ongoing viability of the development”.

The city council advised LHMC that it was using the wrong planning procedure to try to achieve its aim and requested a new application be submitted.

But the authority says there has been “no apparent contact” regarding the proposal since then – and so it has “finally disposed” of the application.  That means the council considers the matter closed and the status quo – of Leughton Hall being a student-only facility – is maintained.

The development opened in 2005 and LHMC said in its request to vary the rules governing occupation of the building that purpose-built student accommodation in Preston was, at that time, “limited” – and so the halls were “relatively easy to fill”.  A 98 percent occupancy rate was achieved regularly for the following decade.

However, that figure has now fallen to 80 percent, which LHMC said in its planning statement is “insufficient to ensure the ongoing future of the halls”.

It added:  “This is despite considerable upgrades to the [building] over the last 17 years and an ongoing programme of improvements. A recent change in the managing agent has also been made to drive increased occupancy and improve the overall attractiveness of the hall to incoming students.”

The firm claimed that Leighton Hall was “at a disadvantage” to newer, similar developments, which did not have the same student-only restrictions placed upon them.

It said the proposed change to admit key workers would also provide “much needed, reasonably priced accommodation to a valuable sector of the UK economy”.

It is still open to the firm to submit an entirely new application to the city council in order to pursue that plan.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has been unable to find any contact details for LHMC Limited to seek comment.

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