Residents protest student digs expansion

Residents protest student digs expansion

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.

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 AssociationOne 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 spokespersonEileen 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."


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