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Councils told that student beds must be for students unless there's a 'compelling' reason

There have been concerns about purpose-built student accommodation being used for other purposes.

Image: Sam Boal/

THE DEPARTMENT OF Housing has written to local councils nationwide to reaffirm that purpose-built student accommodation must be used for that purpose unless there is a “compelling non-Covid” reason. 

Last week an article in the Dublin Inquirer reported that permission has been granted for as many as 1,055 student beds in Dublin to be used instead for other purposes.

Speaking last Thursday as students protested outside the Dáil due a lack of accomodation, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the departments of Further Education and Housing were examining this issue. 

In a circular issued the following day to An Bord Pleanála and each city and county council, the Department of Housing’s chief planning advisor said that the removal of student accomodation for that purpose “runs contrary to the National Student Accommodation Strategy”. 

The circular outlines that a change of use permission should only be granted in exceptional circumstances. 

“In considering planning applications for the change of use of existing student accommodation for a temporary period, planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála must be satisfied that there are compelling non-Covid related grounds to grant permission for any such proposed change of use, while demand for student accommodation remains high,” the letter states. 

Accordingly, the onus must be on any applicant for change of use from existing purpose-built student accommodation to demonstrate that there is no longer a need for such use in the area in question. Otherwise, student accommodation should be retained, where appropriate.

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Speaking following the letter, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said in a statement today that there is no ambiguity that student accomodation be safeguarded during the academic year. 

“The circular issued by my department on Friday leaves local authorities in no doubt that purpose built student accommodation should be retained for that use where that is appropriate,” he said. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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