Blocks of student flats in Cardiff blaming Covid-19 for empty rooms
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A fourth block of students flats in Cardiff wants to lease some of its rooms to people who aren’t students due to coronavirus.
The owners of the West Wing, on Glossop Road in Adamsdown, now have permission until this September to use some of its rooms instead as professional serviced apartments.
The recently built block of flats was built opposite the Cardiff Royal Infirmary, on the site of the hospital’s old west wing. Cardiff and Vale UHB put the west wing up for sale in 2015, relocating services to the Heath and Llandough hospitals.
Cardiff council’s decision to allow the student flats to be used for another purpose raises questions about whether the forecasted increase in students coming to live in the city was overestimated.
The West Wing previously asked permission to use some of its flats as serviced apartments rather than student accommodation before it even opened, and the council agreed.
But the latest decision, on December 31, was explicitly due to Covid-19 and gave permission until September 11 later this year.
Members of the public questioned the change of use, writing into the council.
Jeremy Smith said: “Applying to change the use of the building was obviously part of the overall planning that was done by the developer for this new building from the outset.
“It makes a mockery of the planning process if a developer can set out plans to build accommodation for a particular purpose and then change tack once the building is up.”
Leanna Morgan said: “I object to the change of use on the grounds that the accommodations have not been built for this purpose. Cardiff is currently overrun with various student developments and they should not be built if the developers cannot fill them.”
Nearby blocks of student flats who have also blamed coronavirus on being unable to fill their beds include the Zenith on Tyndall Street, the Neighbourhood on City Road, and Eclipse, on Newport Road Lane.
Writing to the council, planning agents for the West Wing said: “Given the Covid-19 pandemic, rooms for the 2020/21 academic year are not currently being let at the expected rate. The current take-up of students is low, posing a big concern to the management company.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mace, developers of the West Wing, said: “Due to the unanticipated impact of Covid-19 on universities and student attendance in the 2020/21 academic year, we have applied for a temporary change of use class for the West Wing, valid until September 11, 2021, which allows non-student occupation in a portion of the building.
“We fully intend to return to regular student occupation at the start of the 2021/22 academic year.”