this is a letter from a local resident which explains the impact of Surrey University’s policies on housing demand and the Green Belt.
The Great University of Surrey Housing Scandal
As I was preparing to speak at the Excess Housing e-petition last week, I was researching the effect on housing demand and shortage created by the University. What I found is of great concern to everybody, where ever you live in Guildford.
We are all aware the University is a very large institution. According to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in Appendix C, it shows that the University in 2013/14 had 13,700 students up from 8000 in 2001. So measured by attendance, Surrey University now has around 10% of the borough population.
Of more concern to the Local Plan process, the University has also dramatically increased its mix of FULL time students. Referencing ONS data 2001-2011, there are 3723 additional full time students living in Guildford (a 53% rise). In the same period the borough population increased by 7400 (129,800 to 137,200). Student growth therefore accounts for 50% of the recent growth of the Guildford Borough population, and we are told the University want to expand further.
This growth, led by students, is being fed in to the growth projections to justify building a massive 652 houses per year.
In 2003 Guildford Borough Council as part of the 2003 Local Plan removed a large part of Manor Farm (owned by the University) from the Green Belt. In return, the university promised to use it to the benefit of Guildford. The 2003 Manor Farm Master plan was to build 3000 residences in the period 2003-2008, then 300 in 2009/11, then 1490 in 2011. That’s a grand total of 4,790 residences.
The University has not kept up. I believe there are 3125 residences and 270 houses which in its own words has “chosen not to build”, while giving the weak excuse that they are part of its “20 year plan”. Interestingly that same 20 year plan, does not apply to its own growth rate on full time students! The University has admitted not building 2121 students residences and the 270 staff houses in various meetings and minutes.
Let’s look at this in from another direction. The University also committed in the 2003 Local Plan to make sure 60% of its full time students were housed ON site. That is a big part of the reason Guildford Borough Council allowed Manor Farm out of the Green Belt in 2003. FYI – The number of 60% is also given for guidance in the current NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework)
In 2013/14 the University according to the Strategic Housing Market Assessment has about 5100 residences (Manor Farm, Hazel Farm and Stag Hill) and 11,523 FULL time students. It therefore houses about 44% of its full time students on site today. At peak student numbers, before the Fees were introduced in 2011/12 it only had 38% on site. Both numbers are way below of its 2003/4 commitment of 60% (University Manor Farm 2003 development brief – section 5.2)
If you also get sight of section 5.5.2 of the 2009 University Estates Plan (you can Google it), you will see the University has NO INTENTION of meeting the 60% commitment. This document sets an internal target of 42% and sees no additional need to build accommodation.
Instead the University is happy to trot out irrelevant facts like it is “number 6” on the “housing-students-on-site” league table. Given its location and size in relation to the town, on this measure it should be NUMBER 1 by a distance.
On the basis of an average of 3 students to one house (I approximate), this gives a combined figure of about 1300 houses being occupied by students in Guildford today, which should be free for residents AND available for social housing.
I also learnt from the SHMA Appendix C support documentation that the University wishes to increase its student population to 17000 by 2017. At current rates, that’s around 3000 EXTRA full time students. One assumes these are also to be accommodated in private housing outside Campus as the campus dwellings are 98-99% full. We wait to see the assumptions taken for this in the ONS projections, and in preparation of the Local Plan / SHMA numbers.
All this is very concerning, and very much a matter for the Local Plan feedback, it is not scandalous. That is until you understand that in effect, the University is creating its own housing demand. Not just on Blackwell Farm, but for the WHOLE of Guildford. By increasing its student population, and providing no additional student accommodation, housing demand is artificially raised.
In the 2003 Local Plan Section 16 (now marked “Expired”) the Plan details how in return for taking Manor Farm out of the Green Belt it says, “In an attempt to overcome any additional pressure on the existing housing supply within the Borough, the University will be expected to provide student and some staff accommodation resulting from the proposals included in this Plan on the Manor Farm site “. The University has simply not done what it promised in 2003.
Now instead, in the 2014 Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, the University is making NO build commitment in the 1-5 year plan. NONE. NOTHING. Its only commitment is to build 66 houses on Walnut Tree Close (not Manor Farm) in the 6-10 year time period, which roughly equates to those it demolished on Guildford Court i.e net ZERO.
If Surrey University owes this Borough and people all these houses, and has the land at Manor Farm available to build (which it has), and has a need (which it clearly has), and can make money out of building them (which it can). WHY has the University chosen not to build these residences?
The reason becomes clearer when you go to my next point, and this is where scandalous comes in.
In effect the whole of Guildford Borough is struggling to find land to cover for the expansion of the University of Surrey.
The University has submitted the Blackwell Farm site to the local plan, AND despite the Green Belt study evidence and AONB concerns, Guildford Borough Council has selected this as a strategic site.
The University wants to build 3000 houses (not 2000) according to the latest presentations. From this they are likely to make hundreds of millions of pounds on housing which will be worth a staggering £1Bn! Guildford Borough Council it appears, want to build on Blackwell Farm, I presume as they will get a nice CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) payment.
This is wrong in my view. Maybe in yours too?
What is Guildford Borough Council doing about it?
Guildford Borough Council seems to have missed this point altogether despite several attempts to point this out. I refer to Mrs Stevens http://youtu.be/MWWAcdueLrA and Mr. Payne http://youtu.be/yc3bajGIj1w earlier this year.
On Tuesday 8th 2014 council heard from a Send Group e-petition, who demonstrated (and it was widely agreed during that debate) that Guildford Borough Council were not able to manage something as simple as the existing “car garage” estate.
How then can we expect this council, to pay attention to a large and ambitious University, which seems to have no interest in the residents of Guildford? There are plenty of other promises made in 2003 like the Manor Farm Visitor Centre, The Ancient Woodlands Protection, Management of the Scheduled Ancient Monument, and the sale of Hazel Farm to name a few which should have benefited the residents of Guildford, but simply have not materialised.
Lead Guildford Borough Council councillors continue to extol the virtue of inward investment driven by the University, and how it is an excellent seat of learning. I will not comment on these further, but when in November Guildford Borough Council approved the veterinary college – and another 400-500 students we are not able to accommodate, I really think we all must ask what is going on. Perhaps the relationship between the council and the university is a little too cosy?
Guildford needs housing. Particularly social housing.
Not once over the last few months have I heard any of the same lead Councillors talk about the role of the University in generating a social housing shortage. From the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, it now seems very clear that the chief cause of the growing housing shortage in Guildford over the last 10 years is University students.
Instead of promoting the University, Guildford Borough Council could and should have been restricting the University’s ability to demand off site housing for more students until it met its 2003 promises on Manor Farm.
Guildford Borough Council immediately needs to get commitments from the University to build its “2003 Local Plan” housing backlog in the 1-5 year period of the 2014 Local Plan together with anything else it needs to expand further. These units should be included in the SHLAA documentation to protect our Borough.
Student residences are good investments – ask Warwick University – and if run well, can give a good and steady yield. Guildford Borough Council could also help financially. These are probably a safer and better investment than some of the commercial investments Guildford Borough Council been making recently – either way this is a good investment.
The ONS recently revised its population projections downwards by around 5000, and one key reason for was the revision in the future impact of students. We are waiting to see the affects of the ONS changes on the next set of SHMA data. The assumptions used for University expansion, and student accommodation will impact heavily on the amount of land needed for new housing. This is why these assumptions need to be public and open to scrutiny.
Had the University built the student residences it committed to all those years ago, Guildford Borough Council’s call on Greenbelt land would be minimal, but so would the University’s ability to make money on Blackwell Farm.
That the University chooses not to build on the open spaces at Manor Farm is a situation the residents of this borough can NEVER accept.
Wood Street Village
SHMA & SHMA Appendix C
ONS 2001 Student Table
ONS 2011 Student Table
University Estates Plan 2009 http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCUQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fportal.surrey.ac.uk%2Fpls%2Fportal%2Furl%2FITEM%2FB8FF309C0CE7501FE0440003BA296BDE&ei=CnPCU-nMEeTQ7Aaui4DIDw&usg=AFQjCNFYc-e9q5vCZCDGQl2vhwjuSuNGDg&sig2=uxgZ_hhmLZfcRX8Kil-01w&bvm=bv.70810081,d.ZGU
Manor Park Development Brief 2003/4
Local Plan 2003 SHLAA (section 16)