Wave goodbye to Hope Street. The character of the ‘greatest street in the UK’ (according to the 2012 Urbanism Awards) could be irrevocably altered if the Maghull Group’s Falconer Chester Hall-designed new ‘Student Castle’ gets the go ahead at the council’s Planning Committee hearing next month (pic above).

At least, that’s the fear of local residents – who’ve expressed their concern over the mooted 350-flat student accommodation, opposite the Grade II-star Philharmonic pub, in the heart of the Rodney Street Conservation Area.

“We are already significantly outnumbered by the student population,” a Spokesperson from the local residents told SevenStreets. “Regrettably, this imbalance can have a deleterious effect on the environment in terms of noise at night, which is already the focus of considerable unease, and with respect to littering, broken glass and other forms of nuisance. To add several hundred more residents, many of whom will almost certainly have similar lifestyles will further detract from the quality of life in this location.”

The proposal, slated to rise from the rubble of Josephine Butler house (after Maghull’s previously trumpeted Skybar scheme, gleefully approved by planners, fell unceremoniously to earth a few years ago) has angered local residents and the Rodney Street Association, who’ve expressed concern that this intervention will, like some implanted cell, alter the character of one of the city’s great streets for good.

“This area was not long ago designated the “Cultural Quarter” by Liverpool City Council,” the Spokesperson adds. “It might have been expected that any new building would be of a high architectural standard and would have an external appearance that enabled it to be a welcome addition to the existing buildings on Hope Street. On the contrary, the proposed building is of no architectural merit whatsoever.”

Student Halls aren’t known for their architectural élan – nor our Council for its sympathetic assessment of their impact. After spending £20million on the Lime Street gateway, it approved the ugly halls on Skelhorne Street – the picture opposite is not of some interior detail, but of the facade that faces the street.

The residents of the 63 apartments in the adjoining Symphony building – together with stakeholders claim that the removal of the existing trees will be a major loss to the look and feel of the street, with the Philharmonic Pub and Philharmonic Hall benefiting from the only trees in the area.

But are they right?

There is no doubt, private student halls are this decade’s executive loft apartment. Take a look around – there’s a development gold rush going on, every bit as fervent as the apartment boom of the early noughties.

Venerable buildings from Cheapside’s Bridewell to the Tinlings Building on Victoria Street, St Andrew’s Church on Rodney Street to Alsop on Brownlow Hill are being feverishly recommissioned into high-density bed banks for high-churn residents.

Next year, a 710 bedroom complex will open up on Myrtle Street – but it’s the accommodation’s creep into the residential neighbourhoods of the city centre that’s causing most concern.

Unlike the apartments, many of these student halls aren’t being speculatively built: they’re the result of a tender process put out by Liverpool University and LJMU – with the highest bidder winning a contract to ensure a fresh supply of freshmen every term.

SevenStreets understands that the University is planning to close all of its Carnatic Halls in South Liverpool, and the University readily admits that they’re increasingly turning to privately run schemes. There is sound economics behind it: by entering into a partnership with private providers they’re finding a whole new revenue stream (handy, when university admissions are falling).

“We’re keen to ensure that the student experience offered at Liverpool is first-rate and recent market research indicates that in order to attract the best students, we need to offer more accommodation at our city centre campus,” they told us (we’ll be speaking to them, in depth, next week).

But what of the bigger picture? Liverpool currently welcomes 55,000 students to its academic institutions: What if they all want to move in? Will supply always match demand? What controls are being put in place?

Liverpool’s new Head of Planning, the newly arrived Grant Butterworth admits this new wave of city centre student halls comes with its own set of challenges.

“In many cities with growing universities there’s been increasing levels of concern expressed by local communities about the impact of students living nearby,” he says, adding that while most students are ‘well behaved’ complaints range from noise nuisance to a lowering of environmental quality, the viability of local community facilities and the undermining of stable residential communities.

We nod. We reel off a list of similar complaints – from friends living hugger-mugger with student halls along Cheapside’s Victoria Halls. Of wing-mirrors snapped, cars with footprints (and dents) over the roof, freshly deposited piles of sick, and Swedish House Mafia at 3 in the morning (on a Tuesday?).

Anecdotal perhaps, but antisocial, definitely.

Complaints to management, we tell him, have been roundly ignored. Not a single email answered.

When a privately run student hall, put out to tender by a university, and built by a local developer leaves a trail of devastation and sleep-deprivation in its wake – who you gonna call? In our experience, it doesn’t really matter, the buck just keeps on getting passed.

“It’s important that any impacts are anticipated,” Grant says. “Planning control is only one of a suite of powers available to local authorities. The ability for councils, or the Police, to take action under Environmental Health or Public Protection legislation is always there.”

But it’s exactly this fuzzy no-man’s land of accountability that leads to unrest, and to the understandable objections from residents. Surely the problem lies further upstream – in the halls getting planning approval in the first place?

“But planning is concerned with appropriate land use, not the different characteristics of individuals or groups,” Grant says.

In other words, if a location is suitable for families, it’s suitable for students?

“Yes,” Grant says, “Generally speaking, we can’t control or dictate the type of accommodation provided.”

“The default position of the Government’s recent Policy Guidance is to approve new development proposals unless there are impacts which would justify refusing it,” he says.

There are some room for manoeuver -student halls would be unlikely to be passed in suburban residential areas. So why, we ask, are residents in the city centre not given the same consideration?

“Sometimes these developments can inject life and investment into areas where regeneration of historic buildings are key objectives. But care needs to be taken over the impact on city centre living.”

Ultimately, though, in these straitened times, investment is king. And any developer with an eye for building a scheme, and a guaranteed supply of students from our universities is likely to push hard (and appeal, if necessary) against any objection.

“The market for city centre residential is less strong than student accommodation, but in planning policy terms, both are desirable. The trick is to make sure that one doesn’t compromise delivery of the other,” Grant adds.

“Action on anti-social behaviour is key. And we need to work with landlords under housing and licensing legislation, in partnership with the Universities and Student’s Union, to ensure action is joined up.”

So what of the Maghull Group? If you recall, it destroyed beyond repair the architectural details of Josephine Butler house (before and after pictures, right), before razing it to the ground completely. Although the building was eventually passed over for listing by English Heritage.

Four years ago, LJMU came to a £10m commercial arrangement with Maghull Properties which saw Josephine Butler House and three other buildings in the Hope Street Quarter, including the the Hahnemann Building, site of the first homoeopathic hospital, and the School of Art, transferred to Maghull group

The small patch of land on which it stood, at the corner of Hope Street and Myrtle Street, was the only non-conservation site in the Hope Street quarter (odd, when you realise that Josephine Butler House was the home of the first Radium Institute in the UK.)

When the Maghull demolition plans were made public, objections were made by heritage groups and local residents, and moves were made to have the building listed – supported by Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman.

“There is already a thriving student population in the area,” their architects say, “and they contribute enormously to Hope Street’s cultural and commercial vitality.”

“We’ve been through a very detailed process with the City’s conservation and planning team and other heritage groups. We know the street well having designed the extension to Hope Street Hotel and other buildings in the area. Our architectural approach was therefore very respectful of location.”

They may well think that. You can see the building for yourself, above.

“The key is good management. There are good operators with experience and a proven track record and there are some companies who may be looking to cash in on what appears to be a lucrative market opportunity. Student Castle (the management company who’ll run the site) are a premium provider offering something that Liverpool needs if it is going to be able to compete to attract international students.”

“Of course we need policies that safeguard quality and ensure good management, but we don’t believe there is anything intrinsically wrong with this location.”

For FCH and Maghull, the street, running right through Liverpool’s University and Knowledge Quarter, is a logical location. It’s hard to argue about its geography.

Merseyside Police say that student accommodation results in no corresponding spike in reports of anti-social behavoir. City Centre Neighbourhood Inspector Greg Lambert says: “Hotspots for things like anti-social behaviour, disorder and violence do exist but there are not any that are linked to the halls of residence.

“That’s not to say that students don’t cause a nuisance or commit crimes but overall they are more likely to be the victim of a crime like an assault or burglary than the offender.”

There is an established student community in Hope Street, and there is no history or suggestion of friction to date. Greg holds regular meetings with stakeholders where crime reports are analysed.

“There is just no crime pattern around student accommodation in the city,” he says.

At least, none that are reported to the Police. We mention our contributors’ tales of eggs on windows, footprints on Polos, and vomit in doorways.

“The problems you refer to about other areas in the City Centre point towards poor management,” FCH adds, “and maybe lack of care and responsibility by landlords and some students, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that students are intrinsically undesirable or they are inevitably bad neighbours. It’s about management.”

Occasionally, in this city, the stars align perfectly. They’re shining down now, on Hope Street. Its recent award, its programme of year round family-friendly events, and its cultural (and gastronomical) power-houses are at the top of their game. The Street’s ecosystem has never been more finely balanced.

SevenStreets loves students. But we hate profiteering at the expense of the city we care about, live in, work in and champion. And we’d hate to see another short-lived ‘get rich quick’ gold rush for developers, scarring our city for the next generation, fleecing students and impacting neighbourhoods. A site this important needs an open competition – to deliver something truly befitting of its location.

Developers, Universities, Council – we have a suggestion: have you heard about the Baltic Triangle, there are thousands of ripe-for-development buildings there, not adjacent to residential properties. Go take a look.

36 Responses to “Halls of Resistance: Student City”

  1. Vicky Folksman

    One point to note thus far before I get into the story properly: Carnatic Halls are NOT closed. Dale and Rankin halls have closed, which are about a fifth of Carnatic Halls. The rest of Carnatic Halls (e.g. Salisbury, Lady Mountford, etc…) are very much staying open.

    You may want to adapt this for the peace of mind of the staff members who work at the Halls of Residence (waves) and the students who live there, and who may be living there next year. And for the people who have booked their weddings there and the tour groups and exchange students who may be spending weeks of their summers there. Not. Closed. OPEN.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Vicky, I live just behind Carnatic halls and the University selling the halls off is always a worry of ours as we are currently not overlooked. Last I heard, they were committed to running them until 2017 when they will review it again. I did worry when I saw this that they had changed their minds but not told any residents in the area!

  3. bornagainst

    If a student misbehaves in a privately owned halls, can that student be penalised by the University? I suggest not…. The issue exists between the owner of the halls and the student.

    But if the Halls are owned by the university themselves, then surely it’s far easier to adopt a carrot & stick approach to keep students in line?

    I’m pretty sure at least 1 Liverpool Uni found this to be the case….

  4. I don’t know about this… it basically is NIMBYism, even as it denies that at is. And that’s not a criticism as such – NIMBYism is sometimes okay! But we should all be honest about what we’re saying here.

    Additionally, it seems to me that maybe Liverpool can’t have it both ways. Students are broke, it’s true, but (speaking as somebody who’s actually gone back into education recently after a decade plus of being a “proper grown-up”) they are also one of the last groups to whom credit is more readily available… and given the government’s general attitude towards Northern cities, I’m wondering if Liverpool can afford to be unwelcoming to students. I actually believe that when people feel invested in the community in which they live, they don’t act like idiots. I can see this myself in the small Scottish city where I’m studying: people are genuinely friendly and welcoming to students, and the students repay this, on the whole, by not trashing the place. It also helps that the Union here is enormous and really committed to providing lots of options for student nights out, with drinks deals and so on – so perhaps most of the carnage stays on campus, where it belongs. But I also think that the welcome that this city extends to the students helps with that. Example: on my first day here I was stopped in the street by some pensioners who’d overheard my non-Scots accent and wanted to welcome me to the city! Others have similar stories. Having previously lived in Liverpool, I can testify that there’s a lot of hostility. (I was born in the city but moved away, so don’t have a Scouse accent – cabbies would assume I was a student and launch into massive rants about Bloody Students…) Obviously there are bad eggs in amongst the student population, or this wouldn’t be an issue – but not tarring them all with the same brush would probably help!

    Having said that, those bad eggs do need to give it a rest. If they’re behaving inappropriately then they need to be told “no” – most of them are just kids, after all! Maybe there’s more the Universities or residence managers can do to impress upon them that that’s just not the sort of stuff you do. Students are still the responsibility of the University, wherever they live, and Universities should liaise with the residences to make sure that people aren’t disrespecting the place where they live! It’s give and take on both sides, of course.

    On the other hand, during the 5+ years I lived in Liverpool as an adult, it wasn’t students who were trying to mug me, chucking bricks at cars, violently attacking my partner (for his cigarettes!!), groping me in the streets on a Saturday night, chucking beer over homeless people, etc. etc. etc. These are all things I’ve witnessed/experienced, and I’m really sad/ashamed to say that every single person involved was Liverpudlian. Other people’s experiences may vary – my point is that there are bad eggs in every population, and it seems really sad to blanket-generalise and blame students for what might actually be a wider problem. Would this article be written if there were plans for a block of new council flats instead? (Assuming a magical world where people actually bothered to build houses for the poor!)

    Hope Street is very close to the University campuses and the resident quoted in the article could easily be talking about a new bar/venue… basically – and as SevenStreets has correctly pointed out before (cf. Static Gallery) – if you want to live in the city centre, you do sort of have to take the rough with the smooth. If you want a nice quiet place to live, you should probably consider moving to Aigburth or Mossley Hill.

    The tl;dr is: I can see the point, here – but I think that it’s far more complex than just “students are hooligans, get ’em away from me”.

    (PS; I can totally see the conservation point, though – how are these buildings not listed?)

  5. David Lloyd

    There are 63 flats in the symphony – and residents in Hope Street and the streets off it, but we’re talking about all stake holders really, businesses, and residents.

  6. my (city centre) building has had to move to try and ban student tenants after repeated vandalism, hooliganism and disturbance … the costs for repair of which fall on who, the students? no the other residents … there has always been good reason for siting Halls in areas where their presence will actually improve the locality, if you get my drift … Hope St ain’t one of ’em !

  7. DocDaneeka

    I have to say that whilst a great supporter of the Univeristies being here and of the students contribution to the city, being one that never left myself , I am concerned about this increasing move to these private city centre blocks.

    From what I can tell they aren’t a great financial deal for the students, they offer none of the pastoral care that Univeristy halls do, they’re generally woefully constructed and I with increasing numbers of students using them for all 3 years of their degrees I wonder about the impact they have on skills students learn about life from all of the crap and hassle you go through in those crap student houses that are traditionally the lot of 2nd and 3rd years.

    I also wonder what the impact of this increasing student flight to the city centre has on the traditional student accomodation areas of Smithdown, allerton/wavertree?

  8. Leocrusher

    While I’m broadly in agreement with the points around the negative impact of students in residential areas, isnt this an odd position to take in light of the Static Gallery/cumulative impact discussions?

  9. Vicky Folksman

    Carnatic Halls is definitely open until at least 2017 as you have already been advised. We were advised months ago in respect of our jobs. We understand that they are looking into selling the land on which Dale and Rankin stand, but that is as far as they have gone… so far.

  10. a good article, thanks for keeping us informed.

    clearly the council should be thinking responsibly about the placement of new buildings and their effect on tourism – but aren’t people who commit to living in Liverpool more important than hotel residents? and in terms of resident’s lifestyles… what are we protecting exactly?

    i don’t think is it complementary to the heritage orgs – and Seven Streets – to employ the language which demonises students as a nomadic population of hooligans. as soon as those arguments are in play unchecked they’re abused. any community which is temporary – so students, but also immigrants, refugees, then tourists themselves, can be stigmatised very effectively in this way, and its a well trodden path to right-wing absolutism and the death of a great heritage of the meeting of cultures.

    in a sense then, this is the construction of affordable homes isn’t it? for people to live in?

    a lot of Hope Street was constructed with filthy money from a dark time in Liverpool’s history. as much as I love walking to work each morning down this street, there is a sinister background to the architectural extravagance of the city. I think it’s inevitable that the city’s landscape will change, and its a mark of the times that the architecture is pragmatic…

  11. I live over the road from the new buildings being built behind Tinlings, and the property is already being salivated over by estate agents on their sites”Tinlings offers extremely high quality student residences specifically targeted towards the growing international student market. Investors benefit from minimum 9% NET rental yields assured for 2 years as part of a fully managed arm-chair investment scheme. Vita Student at Tinlings is also the first and only student property project in the country available on a 6-year non status plan.” Says it all about what the real motivation is here. It’s not to build better neighbourhoods, it’s to earn a buck and the expense of those who’ve invested in making roots in the city. I think this article is very timely, as currently no-one seems to be addressing that this is a real student bubble, and by the time the bubble bursts, the students, and the landlords will be gone, and we’ll be left with eyesores all over town.

  12. John Walker

    What concerns me is the balance between the number of student concentrations in the city centre, and the void left in the suburbs. It’s really important not to isolate students in our city, to provide local influences and interfaces, but this increasingly does not happening as wave after wave of block apartments are constructed, ‘Hollyoaking’ the city centre..

    Private landlords are struggling to let houses around Smithdown, whilst student housing area’s in the south of Aigburth frequented by Iron Marsh students (closing as well?) are being left empty. My understanding from dealing with University Estate MGMT circa 2005 relates to Carnatic Halls atop the hill being closed and redeveloped for residentials.

    There’s a great balance on Hope Street at the moment, thus justifying it’s recent award. A huge block and flock of students with such proximity can only alter that balance. As for Maghull Properties / LJMU, their ethics are transparent, therefore the scheme deserves refusal for Josephine Butler House destruction?

    Hope Street would be complimented by the addition of one feature, a square on this site to compliment the trees under threat (Abercromby in nature, I love to frisbee there after work and students join in with us 40+ers). Speak within Council planning layers refers to greening the city (15-year plan), greening for cooling effects.. Grant Butterworth’s position is interesting, fresh to the city, a clean slate (though I’m sure officials are briefing him on the in’s and out’s of deals cut here and there in the past….). Maybe the Council can cut a deal here (lots of land to give away..), please LJMU and Maghull Property at the same time – and improve the public realm of Hope Street? Who would have thought it.

  13. OMG!! Bad eggs?? Visit this area late at night and witness first hand the anti-social behaviour that these ‘bad eggs’ are displaying. Then try getting up in the morning for work after a night of sleep deprivation. Then try to get something done about it.

    This is a case of profit taking priority over the quality of the lives of residents.

    Question: How do students manage to be out most night drinking when they are ‘cash strapped’?

    Let’s be proactive. Stop the building going ahead! Why should we have to move because of this?

  14. I must declare that I am a resident of the Symphony so open myself up to nimbyism. My issue is simply with scale and aesthetics. My flat backs onto Cambridge Court student halls so I’m used to living amongst students. Don’t have any problems with them. Volume and vomit are par for the course with students and if you decide to live in town then you have to live with it. Rough with the smooth. The issue for me is that this building will have 350 flats across 7 stories and all the charisma of a Travelodge. I’m all for new developments in the area and students are a hugely valuable asset to this city but this just seems a tad imposing for this area.

  15. We’re saying there’s a limit – weekends loud music etc is fine. Loud music in the halls themselves, all night (in the week) isn’t so cool. It’s a balancing act, isn’t it. Mostly, we think that building isn’t suited for the street.

  16. Leocrusher

    No argument about the building, although my gut instinct is it might be better to limit the amount of residential areas that are occupied by transient, potentially problematic, student populations rather than have them out in regularly occupied areas. Leeds has a problem with summer ghost towns for example…

  17. Architecturally, it’s the calmest of all the proposals for this location. I’m not normally a fan of brick buildings, but this one is fine. As to where students should be located. Well, in the burb’s, people complain, so in town it is. If you live in the city centre (and Hope St/Myrtle St is very much in the city centre) then expect a higher degree of noise than in West Derby/Aigburth/Kenny etc. Environmental Health should be contacted if it gets too much and we’ve seen how Mumby likes to flex his muscles when it comes to noise issues.
    Also, you can’t give preference to those that simply bagsied their spot first. just because it was quiet when you moved in, doesn’t mean it will be like that forever. People who moved in anywhere from Crown St to Leeds S/Pier Head took a bit of a risk really as anywhere in there is likely to be deemed ok for louder stuff.

  18. Having lived in Lady Mountford House for a year, I have to say that most new private accommodation is far, far superior to anything the univeristy has. Most of Carnatic should have been torched years ago, as well as about half of Greenbank.

  19. My god. Lady Mountford is still open? Every year there was a rumour that it had been condemned, like some kind of urban legend. One set of showers between 12 people. Lovely.
    F-Block (208).

  20. My, but this leaves me feeling conflicted.

    On the one hand, Hope Street is the finest street in the city without a doubt – dumping a large population in the middle of it, regardless of what constitutes that population (could be students, could be a colony of merchant bankers – they live in colonies, right? Or am I thinking of termites again?), risks destroying a lot of what makes it so special. It will also take away the whole community that exists in Carnatic and Greenbank, which I feel is very important to the student experience – not to mention the welter of student accommodation in the immediate vicinity already.

    On the other… a lot of the language surrounding this strays into rather unpleasant student-bashing. I’m a native, and went to university here, but a lot of my friends are people who came here as students and stayed, and many have lived in the city centre for years – since they were students themselves, even. They’ve built lives and careers here, and they are a vital part of the city’s vibrancy – promoting gigs, creating art, setting up theatre companies and record labels, cribbing ideas off SevenStreets… I could go on. I’d hate to see people who might otherwise follow in their footsteps driven away by quasi-nativism – as Liverpool will inevitably end up all the poorer for it.

  21. Vicky Folksman

    You sound like one of those people who’d complain to the council if your wheelie bin only got taken away once a fortnight. There’s about a £3k price difference per year between a year at Greenbank/Carnatic and a year in one of your hoity toity town places. And there’s none of the pastoral care that you get or the community, grounds and facilities. Depends on what you want out of the Uni experience really. I bet you’re a hoot at a festival. 😉

  22. I take your point, and I totally agree, Students drive this city in many, many essential areas – the place is just dead without them. Suppose the issue is about halls being a party zone of their own making, with no licensing hours, and precious little policing.

  23. There are also plans to convert a single family home at 39 Hope Street into a 14 bed HMO (house in Multiple Occupation). I don’t think our “Great Street” needs this tansient accomodation with the associated problems; I thought that was the past and we’d moved on. The Strategic Investment Frameworks envisioned the hope street / canning area as regaining families in it’s mix of population once more. This isn’t going to happen if developments like this get the go-ahead. If you feel that this kind of developement isn’t good for Hope Street then please voice your objections before the 03/01/2013. tinyurl.com/cadl7xu

  24. Littoral

    I am not sure how the unique character of this ‘great street’ is helped by the current derelict site used atm for surface car parking. There is plenty of good about Hope Street but the stretch next to this site, where the buildings and street-level animation provided by people entering and leaving the ground floor restaurants, pubs and shops gives away and you find yourself with the grandest pub in England one on side but a windswept holler on the other, lets it down. The site does need to be built on and most buildings would improve both it and the streets heath. FCH don’t have the best track record perhaps (although the blame for beauts like the Skelhorne street should be pinned on the limited budget the projects were given and hence the low quality of its cladding matterials). However, this scheme, from the render shown anyway, seems reasonable. It is of the right scale for the city centre and indeed this very spot (look at the height of the two Phils, Dining Rooms and Hall, adjacent to it). Streets and cities, especially the centres of them, are all about and need people to make them work. We can argue whether students are the best people to have living in that area although it is bang in student land near two campuses and no one its building other accomodation right now but they will help keep Hope Street busy along more of its length and including a now fairly forlorn spot and it looks like it will have ground-level uses, so more scope for shops, restaurants and so on and thus a more economically vibrant and attractive street. If you don’t like buildings, I would advise living in the country. There are plenty of not built upon empty spaces there.

    P.S. Maghull’s treatment of JBH was certainly v. bad behaviour and it is right to keep a close eye on the activities of this organisation. Not least because this is at the least their 3rd proposal for the Hope/Myrtle streets junction and I would not hold my breath waiting for them to build this as well.

  25. JD Moran

    The sole premise of your argument appears to be any building is better than a car-park.

    As for “more scope for shops, restaurants and so on”. With a new Co-op on Myrtle Street added to a Sainsbury’s and several Tescos within a 5-minute walk of Hope Street added to plenty of restaurants and bars already in the area, I am not sure the area will be enhanced greatly by many, or indeed any, more.
    I don’t think people’s objections to this scheme boil down to “not liking buildings”, there are many not built upon empty spaces in Liverpool or indeed empty buildings which may be considered better located or suited to such a development.

  26. […] Complaints about the former include outdated facilities, small rooms and on-going issues with the reliability of the Arriva bus service to campus. For the on campus accommodation, there is some concern about high rents. Vine Court rent is between £120 and £160 per week. The increasing density of student halls around Mount Pleasant is also causing some friction with local residents. […]

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