Issue - meetings
University housing needs
In April 2017 the Panel submitted a report to the City Executive Board about university housing needs to inform the Local Plan Preferred Options. The Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services offered to provide a detailed written response to the Panel’s recommendations once the Local Plan Preferred Options had been published
The Panel is asked to note and comment on the Board Member’s responses.
The Panel noted the report and made the following comments:
· Members were not impressed with the approach of Oxford University representatives at the meeting.
· The response to recommendation C was a concern because amount of student accommodation concentrated in certain locations was becoming overwhelming and it may be appropriate to put student accommodation in areas outside of the city centre and Headington, e.g. Barns Road or Blackbird Leys.
· In the response to recommendation E, post-graduates on research-based courses may need to be better defined to capture those whose research is of most benefit to the city.
Board Member response to follow
Cllr Gant, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee presented the report. He asked whether a detailed board member response to the recommendations would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee before the Local Plan: preferred options report expected in June.
Cllr Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning and Regulatory Services said that he didn’t want to pre-empt the local plan process so offered to give a fuller response of each element of the recommendation immediately after the publication of the Local Plan: preferred options report. Cllr Gant formally accepted Cllr Hollingsworth’s proposal.
The Panel asked to discuss the impacts of the high cost of housing on the two universities and their approaches to land management in the City.
Why is it on the agenda?
For the Panel to consider the following lines of inquiry:
1. How are the two universities affected by Oxford's housing situation, and what do they see as the medium to long term risks if prices and rents remain so high?
2. How are the universities responding to the issues they highlight in response to Question 1?
3. How will the universities be able to contribute to meeting the city's housing needs, and what general proposals are they likely to be making to the Council during the Local Plan review?
Oxford Brookes University have provided some documentation to support this discussion and any further submissions will be circulated separately.
Who has been invited to comment?
· Carolyn Puddicombe, University of Oxford
· William James, University of Oxford
· Sue Holmes, Oxford Brookes University
· Paul Large, Oxford Brookes University
· David Whittingham, Oxford Brookes Student Union.
· Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Board Member for Planning & Regulatory
· David Edwards, Executive Director for Housing & Regeneration
· Mark Jaggard, Planning Policy and Design, Conservation and Trees Manager
The Chair invited representatives of both universities to address the Panel.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resource Allocation at the University of Oxford spoke first. He explained that the University had over 10,000 under-graduate students, who were mostly in college accommodation, plus about 10,000 graduate students including 4,500 postdoctoral researchers.
The Pro Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resource Allocation at the University of Oxford said that researchers were young professionals from around the world who needed to live close to their research and should be treated differently from students who were taught. Students in this group tended to reside in the City for 3-4 years and were the most adversely affected by the housing situation, spending up to 60% of their earnings on housing costs.
The University was in a position to develop 2,000 units of accommodation for these people to rent at affordable rates. The only impediment to doing so was the Council’s affordable housing policy, which made such schemes unviable by requiring the delivery of new affordable housing. In summary the University of Oxford had two asks of the City Council:
1. That research students be exempt from the Council’s planning policy target to have no more than 3,000 Oxford University students without a place in university provided accommodation living in the City.
2. That the development of employee housing schemes (such as purpose built accommodation for postdoctoral researchers) be exempt from planning policies requiring the direct or indirect delivery of new affordable housing.
The Director of Infrastructure Investment at Oxford Brookes University advised that his institution had some 12,000 students. This figure had remained fairly static over recent years but a growing proportion were seeking accommodation in Oxford which had led to the University exceeding the 3,000 target, despite making more rooms available in halls.
The Panel heard that Oxford Brookes University needed to focus on investing in its academic estate over the coming decade following years of under-investment. The University wanted to provide an attractive offer to students but the lack of availability and high cost of housing presented a double whammy. Land values in the City were incredibly expensive and the University had no land bank or significant un-earmarked capital for student accommodation. The University would be decamping from Wheatley over the coming 10 years and redeveloping facilities at Harcourt Hill. A new Student Residencies Strategy had been agreed which set out the aims of increasing capacity and improving the quality of older halls but without sites or capital the University would need to work with private sector developers. The 3,000 target was a blunt instrument that should be revisited to ensure there were no perverse impacts on local services. For example, Oxford Brookes could train their share of the Government’s 10,000 additional nurses and these trainee nurses would spend half their time working in local placements.
The Panel noted that a priority of the City Council was the delivery of new affordable housing and questioned whether the University of Oxford could use some of ... view the full minutes text for item 75