Published on Sunday, 13th May 2018


A revised proposal for the conversion of Wingfield House to student accommodation has been put forward. The former tax office in the northern end of Commercial Road already has permission for 295 student rooms, some of which would be within three new storeys to be added to the top of the building. The new application ups those numbers to 440, partly through an additional floor but mostly through reconfiguring the existing space to create more, smaller rooms.


The development of new student accommodation around Portsmouth and Southsea station has been controversial, but in my view it has been the right thing to do: it has freed up existing housing for other tenants; it has helped the University compete for students and it has been a catalyst for other development that would not be happening were it not for the transformation of the area taking place. The latest of these – a new hotel – is likely to be considered by the Planning Committee in June.


Student accommodation elsewhere in the city centre is less desirable, but national planning rules make a lot of it impossible to resist. As Wingfield House was previously an office block, it can be converted to housing without planning consent – and that extends to the conversion to cluster flats, where every room is rented by a student or to self contained bed sits, of any size, again where each room is rented by a student. In effect the only parts of the Wingfield House scheme that needs permission are the extra storeys and the cladding. It was a similar situation with Venture Tower, Fratton. The Planning Committee also had little choice but to allow student housing on Unity Hall, the old Labour Party HQ, in Lake Road, even though general purpose housing would have been a better use of the site.


Tags: Planning