Heslington East proposal fatally flawed but University press on

YORK UNIVERSITY has been accused of ‘losing the plot’ by a senior academic over its plans for Heslington East, which requires students to live on campus for the course of their degree, when its own report shows this is impractical.

The forty-five page report, condemned as “shoddy work”, has not been made public by the University as the Accommodation Officer, David Maughan, insisted that it was still being considered for release by the University.

This report which nouse secretly obtained, shows the Student Housing Preferences study was done too late, the methods flawed and if its observations are ignored, expansion plans could prompt a housing crisis throughout York.

It has exposed the University’s poor record of addressing the housing needs of current York students, and shows that it is failing to provide enough accommodation for its current students. In 1995 58 per cent of students were provided for, a figure which has since dropped to 43 per cent.

Despite its poor record, The University of York have assured the Council that they are committed to housing the additional 5,000 students Heslington East will bring. However, the report shows that students consistently leave campus after their first year, with only ten per cent of second years choosing to stay on campus and fourteen percent of third years.

The most controversial statistics in the report reveal that 84 per cent of off-campus respondents in the survey wanted to continue renting with friends in flats in their next year. However, the University has not in the past built flats for groups of students who want to live together on the ‘Friends’ model, and has not released any plans to do so for Heslington East.

The preference is to build single hotel room cells, without communal lounges, which maximise income from conference guests.

Dr. Jeffrey Stern, one of the local residents heading the campaign against Heslington East, to whom we showed the report, said that one major implication is that the University won’t be able to stop students from wanting to move off campus, away from what he has described as a “boring open prison”. This influx of students would drown the local housing market, pushing up rents and forcing out local residents.

Dr. Stern expressed concern that this report concluded that private landlords were attracting more students than the University and commented: “Private landlords have already taken the initiative both in offering lower prices and greater facilities, and are running rings round University plans – a typical case of quick-witted private enterprise defeating ponderous public institutions.”

He fears that if Campus Three goes ahead, it could spark a “feeding frenzy” with landlords buying up houses for students at an unprecedented rate. This already is a serious problem in Badger Hill, Heslington Road and parts of Fulford and Fishergate.

Following the environmental concerns of Dr. Richard Firn, of the Biology Department, reported in the last edition of nouse, this report even gives legitimacy to discarded plans of building on sites in the city centre, instead of using up valuable greenbelt land.

A third of students found it to be a disadvantage to be away from the city, which adds fuel to the argument of building some of the new campus on existing brownfield sites, in buildings which are subject dedicated, with accommodation halls or groups of flats nearby. The successful example of the Centre for Medieval Studies at King’s Manor shows that this could be an excellent model.

In light of this report, Dr. Firn remarked, “to plough on with a weak case could just involve the University in lots of costs and maybe a failure to get full permission. What a waste of money that would be.”

Dr. Stern is now calling for a repeated survey by an independent group on a larger sample (only 29 per cent responded), with standard interviews taken over a long period and professional review techniques. He has castigated the survey as flawed, because of the largely female response and the limited nature of an online based survey.

The survey, which he believes should have been performed before the University assured the Council it could house all its new students, actually manifestly shows the University doing its market research after it has launched its product.