Controversial new student housing on Mill Road

Harriet Gordon 24 October 2014

The student monopoly on Cambridge life seems set to continue as Anglia Ruskin University reveal their plans to develop over 300 new student rooms on Mill Road.

In September, TCS reported that Cambridge is the UK’s most expensive city for students, with the President of the Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union, Daryl Sharpe, raising concerns specifically about the high costs of rent.

In response ARU’s estate co-ordinator David Morris has argued that the new accommodation on Mill Road is desperately needed. Quoted in Cambridge News Morris claiming “last year we needed rooms in the local Travelodge to cope with the demand from first year students”. Students argued this last-minute accommodation was a far cry from the traditional university experience, and that the cost of a degree and the general cost of student life is so high that students should expect to be provided with at least basic accommodation.

However, it is not only students that are facing an accommodation crisis in Cambridge. The Mill Road site, next to Brookfields Hospital, was previously earmarked as part of a local plan for residential development. Councillor Dave Baignet has spoken out against the application for student housing, telling Cambridge News that the Romsey area is in desperate need of more housing for residents.

Cambridge is generally regarded as having an acute housing shortage. The average house price in Cambridge has risen to nearly £370,000, almost 13 times larger than the average salary, pricing many residents out of buying and renting in Cambridge. The city council had planned for 128 new homes in the area, and the loss of the Mill Road plot could reduce this number to around 60.

The University of Cambridge does not seem to be facing the same problems with regard to student accommodation. Most undergraduates are guaranteed accommodation in college for three years, and the University has recently unveiled a plan to use the North West Cambridge development to build 3,000 new houses for staff and postgraduate researchers. This development is not without controversy, however, as Times Higher Education reported in September. Employees earning below a threshold of up to £47,000 qualify for affordable housing on the site, whilst the waiting lists for social housing in Cambridge grow larger.