Covid hangover means new Preston student flats complex will miss this year’s university intake

Delays caused by the Covid pandemic mean a new student complex in Preston will not be ready for the 2022/23 academic year.

By Brian Ellis
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 12:57 pm
Work on Innovation House is not expected to be completed by the start of the next academic year.
Work on Innovation House is not expected to be completed by the start of the next academic year.

Instead the developers of Innovation House in the city centre want permission to rent out the 218 self-contained flats to non-students for 12 months to plug the gap.

The council's planning committee will debate the request tomorrow, with Town Hall chiefs recommending it should be given a temporary change of use instead of standing empty.

The Innovation House project was given planning permission in 2017 and was earmarked for opening in time for this autumn's intake of students at the nearby University of Central Lancashire.

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Delivery delays during the Covid pandemic have put construction behind schedule.

But the developers say a shortage of building materials worldwide has put the scheme behind schedule, missing the all-important arrival of new students into Preston in September.

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Under conditions placed on the project by councillors back in 2017 - the development should be strictly student accommodation only - the missed deadline would have meant the two four-storey buildings remaining unused for the next year.

An architect's report going to the planning committee this week says: "Due to global material shortages (mainly due to Covid 19) the client has experienced delivery delays to the site which have caused completion to extend past September 2022 and in-turn miss the intake of students for the 2022/23 academic year."

The council is being asked to allow non-students to live there temporarily when it is finished.

The change of use is similar to one granted to the neighbouring 425-room Sizer House student accommodation complex where developers successfully applied to the council last year for a relaxation of their "students only" status on a permanent basis.

Apprentices and key workers will now be allowed to live in Sizer House alongside students, allowing the owners greater flexibility in selecting tenants.

The developers of Innovation House say their application is only for a temporary period and the accommodation will revert wholly to students from the start of the 2023/24 academic year.

A report by officers to tomorrow's planning committee, recommending approval, says: "The applicant wishes to temporarily change condition 4 (student-only occupation) to allow apprentices and key workers to occupy the studios between the 1st September 2022 until 31st August 2023, so that the building, when complete, would not stand empty until the next academic year.

"The reason for the original condition restricting the proposed apartments to student accommodation only was that the proposed development is in close proximity to the Central Lancashire University campus and is specifically designed for student use.

"It was also considered to be not necessarily suitable for non-student uses, either in terms of layout or car parking provision, as the development proposes no on-site parking provision.

"The applicant makes the argument that the student occupancy restriction placed on Sizer House, adjacent to the application site, was amended to allow apprentices, key workers and apprentices to occupy that development.

"Given this and the temporary nature of the proposal, this variation seems reasonable for the academic period proposed, particularly given the country is experiencing difficulties in providing materials for the construction trade.

" Allowance for the buildings to be occupied by key workers and apprentices during this period will ensure the building generates an income upon completion rather than lying empty.

"Thus, in principle the proposal to vary the condition for the academic period of September 2022 to September 2023 only is acceptable."