Prospective developers have exhibited early proposals to demolish the elegant, 1930's building and replace it with 400 student housing units with retail on the ground floor. Irrespective of the architectural merits of the replacement, or the desirability of student housing in this concentration in this particular area, prior concerns arise.
The developer claims that conversion of the existing building is unviable but fails to provide any supporting evidence for this statement. One might ask unviable for what? Is conversion simply "unviable" in relation to the amount of profit they hope to make or just for student housing? It was claimed that the Royal Alexandra Hospital could not be viably converted to housing yet after a long-running campaign by local amenity societies and residents, and a costly public enquiry, Wimpey was finally persuaded that a sensitive conversion of the historic main building to apartments was feasible and an important feature of the Dyke Road streetscape was saved for posterity.
The developer also claims that the replacement building will be to high standards of sustainability but, of course, neglects the inherent unsustainability and waste of demolishing a large, high-quality building, carting away scores of lorry loads of rubble to dump in land-fill 50 miles away, and then rebuilding with new masonry, newly-felled timber, newly-mined metals. Nor is it required of developers to concern themselves with the extra disruption to shoppers, residents and traffic that rebuilding would cause compared with conversion.
It seems unfortunate that the city planning department has not been able or willing to give the prospective developer any overarching guidance on these matters.