Projected student intakes for September 2019 were said to be the lowest since 2014, and that was going to bring total numbers to about 30.000. That was the figure that Plymouth University estimated at the end of last year. In a shocking turn of events, this September Plymouth University will only have 21-22.000 students, our sources inside the Uni have revealed. We've also been told by reliable sources in the Uni that management are in the process of sacking around 450 staff as a result of this.
While the local media outlets have kept quiet about this, we proceed to investigate what could have caused it and how it will impact Plymouth on the short and long term.
Insider sources have told us most of the blame goes to Plymouth's layout and infrastructure: as in transport links to and from Plymouth, poor local services and the fact that Plymouth Uni has built up a bad reputation in the last few years. Adding to this, therese is a nationwide slump in new student numbers, due to a higher government focus on apprenticeships and because university degrees are deemed useless by the newer generations.
What could this mean for Plymouth? Well, the first to feel the negative impact seem to be bars, clubs and takeaways. We've also been told barbers and hair salons are taking a dive, and we know taxis are feeling it as well, as we're very close to this trade. But, could there be a bigger, long-term impact? Plymouth has relied on students for the last 6-10 years, since the Dockyard has shed its staff like a sinking ship. Recent announcement, including Stonehouse Barracks being shut in the next 8 years will also affect the number of jobs available to plymothians, so if we're going to lose the Uni as well, where does that leave us?
There are many recently built student accommodations that are just sitting empyt at the moment in Plymouth, with Plymouth City Council approving more similar projects all the time, and no feasible plans for the old ones. One example is the Crescent Point tower complex, behind the former Reel Cinema. The blocks cost £16 million, constitute of 348 individual apartments and it has been sitting empty for more than a year due to legal details. Next up is Mary Parker House, finished in 2017 and is located on the old Royal Eye Infirmary site, in Mutley. Costing £7.8 million to build, it boasts 165 bedrooms and is mostly occupied. Aspire Living, a student block built using the old Comet store remains, with a cost of £4.5 million, provides 79 high-end student flats, and is also the most occupied of them all.
Last but not least, we have Beckley Point. Locals and tourists alike have agreed that it's a massive eyesore, but the £30.79 million sky scraper has a bigger problem: it's mostly empty. Lest than 100 of the 505 apartments are currently occupied.
Including private landlords, Plymouth is estimated to be able to house around 35k new students per year. So the question is, why are we building more, when most of it is empty?
And it you think there's no other new projects, we'll prove you wrong: there are 7 massive other projects already approved by the City Council, some already in construction and some waiting to start.
The most obvious is the old Derry's Department Store, opposite the Theatre Royal, which is undegoing a £50 million revamp, in order to provide 500 student flats and a 110 bedroom Premier Inn Hotel.
We move on to North Hill Court, on North Road East. It's a £3.5 million development, that will consist of 39 student apartments that was supposed to be ready for September 2019, but obviously failed to make its deadline.
Belgrave Snooker Club, Plymouth's oldest cinema (dating since 1912), located behind Mutley Plain will provide another 43 student bedrooms, after permission was given in 2017.
Drake Reservoir planning permission was given in 2017. The project will see a five storey student block in the University Campus, boasting 66 student bedrooms.
Good Companions was demolished in 2017, after planning permission was given for a 17 storey student block, with 267 apartments, in a £20 million redevelopment.
Mayflower House, on Armada Way is undergoing demolition, after permission was granted in 2016 for an 18-storey block that would house almost 500 students.
Planning consent was given in the summer of 2018 to demolish and rebuild the Money Centre, turning it into a 600-bed student block, plus a 100-bed hotel.
This worries us, and it should worry you as well, no matter what field you're working in. Let us know what you think, comment on our Facebook page.