Published Sep 11, 2019

Fears mount over Cardiff skyline dominated by empty tower blocks

The Cardiff skyline is at risk of being full of vacant buildings after an 'over-saturation' of luxury student flats, warns a leading architect.

In the past five years, proposals to create approximately 7,400 new student rooms have been approved. However, a number of schemes have since been let to professionals and tourists, as it has been a struggle to fill the rooms. Jonathon Adams, who designed the Wales Millennium Centre, said the buildings might have to be demolished.

The city council said that despite a number of applications for new student blocks, the number of beds remained fewer than the student population.

According to BBC analysis, about 7,400 new rooms, most in so-called purpose-built student accommodations (PBSAs), have been approved since 2014. With more applying for a change of use, some schemes not yet built, and plans for more student rooms on City Road, there are concerns the city will be left with student rooms that cannot be filled.

Adams fears that PBSAs will have a limited lifespan and is concerned that converting them into flats is not straightforward, and developers could face hefty bills to adapt them.

He told the BBC "it is difficult not to see a scenario in the future where we would not know what to do with them".

Cardiff Civic Society has voiced concern that the city's identity could be lost to high-rise buildings and student flats. The city council has put policies in place for student flats and tall buildings to advise the planning committee and developers.

A spokesperson said "A planning authority cannot refuse an application because we don't believe there is a need for the development.

"Whilst Cardiff has seen a number of applications for new PBSA in recent years, the number of bed spaces remains significantly less than the student population of Cardiff".