Residents protest student digs expansion

Published Saturday, 15 February 2014
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Residents from Sans Souci Park in south Belfast have held a protest against Queens University's plans to further extend student accommodation in the area.

Residents protest student digs expansion
Residents protest in the Lennoxvale area of Malone on Saturday. (© UTV)

Householders in the area are demonstrating to protect and conserve one of the last remaining uniquely Victorian housing sites of its kind in Belfast.

Sans Souci Park is a small crescent of family homes, together with sheltered accommodation for over 55s, and homes for new immigrant families.

Around 30 residents who turned out on Saturday morning are concerned that the picturesque area will be overtaken by student housing in a similar way to the Holyland area near the university.

Over 2,000 students currently reside on one side of Sans Souci, in Queen's Elms student village.

The university has proposed to build further accommodation for 146 international students.

Those students will be housed in seven buildings - three new with four existing to be modified - on the opposite side of Sans Souci Park.

We do not want to be part of a 24-hour student campus with all of this beautiful streetscape obliterated.

Eileen Sung, Sans Souci Residents Association

One protestor and also an architect, John McIlhagga, said the Lennoxvale property they rallied outside was "at the heart of the issue".

He told UTV: "This building here, from the interwar period, is one of the important buildings within the building stock of the conservation area and I feel it quite right that the residents have come out today to save this building, save number one, the garage, but also to save Lennoxvale, because once (number one) building goes, Lennoxvale will be redeveloped."

Sans Souci resident Marcus Patton added that the mixture of Victorian villas with large shrubbery and trees were attractive features of the Malone area and that the development would see these disappear.

The university plans are very much in line with Belfast City Council objectives to transform Belfast into a city of learning.

Queen's University spokesperson

Eileen Sung, chair of Sans Souci Residents Association said: "This is a Victorian and Edwardian cul de sac, and it's part of the Malone conservation area.

"What we want is for Queen's to work with the planners, and to keep this a conservation area for everybody in Belfast. For everybody in Belfast to enjoy these beautiful woodland walks, for the people at Queen's to enjoy these beautiful buildings in their original setting."

Queen's have said that only one building, number one Lennoxvale, which they describe as in a state of disrepair, will be demolished as part of the plans.

A spokesperson said: "We have been seeking planning permission to develop accommodation for international students at Queen's, we have been liaising with local residents about some of the concerns that they have and have actually made significant modifications to the plans, this includes scaling back the number of proposed bed spaces from over 250 to 146.

"Currently 1,400 international students are at Queen's who contribute over £20m per annum into the city. Recruiting additional international students is good for the city and the economy."

© UTV News
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5 Comments
John in Antrim wrote (217 days ago):
So the Gin and Jag brigade don't want any scruffy students living within smelling distance. How awful. The tone of the hood will be lowered as well as the value of the mansions in Sans Souci(?)and Lennoxvale. Ah! Now we get to heart of the matter!
john boyd in belfast wrote (218 days ago):
After all you dont want education and excellence getting in the way of Hillary's afternoon tea parties.
Sam Magee in Sans Souci Park wrote (218 days ago):
The statement from Queens is simply nonsense. Firstly, Number 1 Lennoxvale is not to be demolished in the plans-they would if they could but it is listed so they can't. They are correct to say it is in a state of disrepair, caused by their own neglect as with so many other Queens buildings in the area. It is proposed that Number 3 as well as other outbuildings be demolished, again buildings in disrepair thanks to Queens lamentable approach to maintaining property. Queens have not liaised with local residents on their current planning application. There has been no approach whatsoever in spite of invitations in letters of objection at the last application and the current application to do so. The latest set of plans ensure that the upper end of Lennoxvale becomes a student swamp. The plans, in that regard, have become more encroaching rather than less. More students drinking, singing, urinating and defecating (as they presently do) in this already densely populated area. As for the international aspect, this is simply misleading. Freedom of information requests made by local residents suggested that there is no actual demand for extra housing for international students. Queens refused to provide important details on future applications, it is confidently believed on the basis there is no demand. Moreover, once Queens would build the accommodation their equality policy would not permit them to be selective on who would live there. This is no more than a dressing up exercise by a body intent on ignoring the concerns of residents who already have to tolerate more than their fair share of loutish, unacceptable behaviour.
Eileen Sung in Sans Souci Park wrote (218 days ago):
Land banking policies of 'deliberate obsolescence' are evident throughout the south side of Belfast. Such cowboy tactics should not be rewarded by permission to increase the density of purpose-built student accommodation in residential areas, contrary to the intentions of the Buchanan Report on Student Housing and Belfast as a Learning City.
Eileen Sung in Sans Souci Park wrote (219 days ago):
Great coverage thanks UTV.
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