Developer Primus Property Group wants to let its 150-apartment Northgate Studios development to a wider range of tenants due to the “catastrophic impact” of Covid-19 and subsequent low demand among students.
Under a planning consent granted by Cheshire West and Chester Council in April 2017 following an appeal, only students can rent apartments at the now-completed Trafford Street scheme.
However, Primus has asked the council to lift this restriction for a two-year period, allowing it to open up the scheme to a wider pool of potential tenants.
Student Facility Management, which operates the flats, said it had received “barely any bookings” from students for both Northgate Studios and a neighbouring block called Northgate Point for the next academic year, rendering the blocks “completely empty and unused”.
There are “very serious questions about if and how further educational establishments will function in the short-to-medium term”, a letter prepared by planning consultant Roman Summer Associates to the council said.
Primus Property Group’s co-owner and director Duncan Melville told Place North West that while the student accommodation market is picking up, there is still a “huge amount of uncertainty” as to what the market may look like going forward.
He also noted that the block is made up of studio flats rather than cluster flats, as is often the case in student accommodation, which makes it a more attractive prospect to tenants and “advantageous” to those working in Chester city centre.
Primus’ request to allow the general public to rent the flats- submitted to the council as part of its application for change in conditions impacting the scheme – has met with objections from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service as well as the council’s highways department.
Construction of the student block completed in 2018.