5-story student apartments recommended to replace Aubrey House in York

A 5-story student apartment block has won the backing of York planners, despite concerns that the project is “cramped” and parts of its appearance being “monotonous and bland”.

York City Council planning committee is recommended to approve the project on Foss Islands Road, with officers saying the public interest in student housing outweighs the loss of historic Aubrey House, which would be demolished.

The program was scaled back during the planning process and several rounds of consultations, following a 7-story, 112-room program announced in July 2020.

Today, Urbanite, S & JD Robertson Group Ltd and Portman Land Ltd are seeking approval for a 5-storey building comprising 11 grouped apartments offering 62 rooms and 19 studios, a common room (42.6 m2) and a terrace on the roof.

If approved, each apartment grouped would have a shared kitchen / dining / living space. The bedrooms in the apartments of the cluster would be 12 m2, the common areas in the apartments of the cluster would be between 20.1 and 30.6 m2. The studios would vary between 16 and 24.2 m2.

A report prepared for the January 6 meeting says the site contains the 19th-century Aubrey House and is just south of the old Carpetright store, which has planning permission for a new 4-story Premiere Inn, on which the work has started.

The council’s conservation architect said the 19th century buildings at the front of the site contributed to the setting of the area and noted that the rooms “lack any generosity in the form / space of the plan, and although residents are now offered an outdoor roof terrace “.

The commentary continued, “See the proposals as excessive development of such a narrow and limited site, and don’t think it offers a high standard of living for future occupants.”

The council’s report, the original and oldest for the site, considered the project to be “site overdevelopment” with too large a footprint and too tall buildings. But the six letters of objection were insufficient to prevent the ploy.

York had a growing student body, growing from 22,069 in 2011 to 26,090 students enrolled at York St John University and York University in 2018/19, with growth expected to continue.

Although accepting that it is similar in size to the Premiere Inn, officers noted “a weakness in the diagram, notably the side and rear elevations which will appear particularly monotonous and bland due to the scale of the building.”

Their report continues: “The proposal represents an intensification of the use of the site combined with the recognized impacts of noise and disturbance.

But this “is not considered to result in undue negligence or loss of privacy”.

Recommending approval, their report concluded that the program was in compliance with planning policies. Losing Aubrey House would damage the setting for the nearby conservation area, but the benefit of providing student accommodation won out.

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