Families are being crowded out of a Brighton housing estate, a public meeting was told.
They face parking problems and packed buses in an area where professional landlords have been snapping up family homes and converting them into student houses.
The knock-on effects have included fewer children going to local schools – and this has meant cuts to school funding.
And the very nature of the community was also said to be changing, with concerns voiced that the latest set of plans would worsen the situation.
The issues surfaced at a meeting to discuss proposals for a dedicated student housing scheme close to Brighton’s two universities.
The scheme – on the corner of Moulsecoomb Way and Lewes Road – would provide almost 380 student bedrooms on land currently used predominantly for waste recycling.
The proposed student housing complex would be up to seven storeys high but there would be just a dozen parking spaces, according to the plans.
Neighbours set out some of their concerns about the One Moulsecoomb Way proposal at a meeting with the developer McLaren on Wednesday (June 5).
About 60 people went along to the meeting at the Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre where they spoke about the lack of truly affordable homes for people from the area.
McLaren plans to relocate the recycling plant run by KSD Environmental Services to North Quay in Newhaven – and no one said that they would miss the smell.
The proposed student homes would also replace two railway cottages and St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
‘Destroying our community’
One resident said: “What we need is homes for families in this area.
“This community used to be an area for families. There are more and more students coming in and our school is in crisis.
“We need more families with children to stop our school turning into an academy.
“Why not build family homes? I have no objection to the building but more and more students in this area is completely destroying our community.”
A day earlier, residents had learnt that the government plans to force Moulsecoomb Primary School to become an “academy” school – removed from council control – after a poor official inspection report.
McLaren’s development director David Atherton said that student flats would be more financially viable than affordable family homes.
He said that the cost of the scheme would include new community facilities as well as paying for KSD to move to Newhaven. It would also create jobs, he said.
Community campaigner Mitchie Alexander asked about rent levels and said that students could find a room in a shared house in parts of Moulsecoomb for £110 a week.
She said that her daughter was paying £165 a week for a room in a student hall of residence in central London.
Mr Atherton said that rents were likely to be about £175 to £200 a week, adding that international students were paying £275 to £300 a week for “city centre studios”.
He said: “We will be operating at a premium to the HMO (houses in multiple occupation) stock on the basis we will be a lot better than that.
“We’ll have on-site security, amenity spaces, a much nicer room and looked-after accommodation.
“They pay a slight premium but we are working hard to keep this as affordable for local students as it can be.”
Reducing demand for family homes
McLaren’s plans are for some “studio” flats with kitchenettes alongside a number of “cluster” flats which would have four to eight en suite bedrooms, shared kitchens and communal living space.
Mr Atherton also said that McLaren’s scheme would help reduce demand for local family homes to be turned into student houses.
He said that there were about 30,000 students in Brighton and Hove and about 7,000 purpose-built student bedrooms.
With 654 “registered HMOs” on the Moulsecoomb estate, he said, that equated to about 4,000 students living in former family homes.
Mr Atherton said that a survey of 50 properties had found that they were managed by 28 different companies.
The proposed One Moulsecoomb Way scheme would have one manager, who would attend community meetings, as well as 24-hour security.
Residents expressed concerns about the limited number of spaces on already crowded local bus services, including the 25, 48 and 49.
They were also worried about more pressure on parking and said that they did not want to pay for permits but the streets could not cope with an influx of student cars.
They were told that students would have to sign a contract saying that they would not bring a car with them.
But residents said that this would not be effectively policed and had been told that the same policy would be in place for Varley Halls.
Mr Atherton said that he understood that parking was a real issue for residents and would make not allowing a car a condition of tenancy.
He said that the site manager would remind students that they would not be allowed cars as part of their commitment.
As the condition would be part of the tenancy, students breaching the rule could be evicted in extreme cases.
A Moulsecoomb resident of more than 40 years, John Needham, spoke in favour of moving the waste disposal site and said that the proposed buildings looked better. He asked what would happen if the scheme did not go ahead.
Mr Atherton said that McLaren would take its investment elsewhere. He said there was a potential for KSD Environmental to expand its use of the site as affordable housing was not a viable option.
For more information about the plans and to comment, visit the Brighton and Hove City Council website at planningapps.brighton-hove.gov.uk and search for BH2019/01272.