Bord Pleanála gave approval for 9,500 student bedrooms

Student accommodation business facing uncertain future

The biggest development to get  approval in 2019 was a complex at Glasnevin  proposed by Dublin City University  with 1,240 bedrooms. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The biggest development to get approval in 2019 was a complex at Glasnevin proposed by Dublin City University with 1,240 bedrooms. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

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Planners gave developers approval to build about 9,500 student bedrooms over the last three years, official figures show.

Student accommodation benefits from a fast-track planning system for large housing developments that allows builders to sidestep local councils and seek permission direct from An Bord Pleanála.

Figures released this week by An Bord Pleanála show it gave developers and universities permission to build accommodation blocks with space for more than 9,500 students in the three years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The business faces an uncertain future as third-level colleges opt for more online tuition while the threat of Covid-19 outbreaks remains.

Doubts are also growing over whether foreign students, worth €380 million a year to the Republic’s economy, will travel here in their usual numbers in the autumn.

An Bord Pleanála’s figures show that it granted permission for the construction of accommodation blocks with the space to house 4,337 students last year.

The biggest development to get approval in 2019 was a complex in Glasnevin proposed by Dublin City University (DCU), with 1,240 bedrooms.

The college was hoping to complete the blocks, some of up to seven storeys, on time for the academic year beginning in the autumn of 2023. DCU is one of the Republic’s fastest growing universities, with 17,000 students.

Ploughed back

Its accounts for the 12 months to September 30th 2018 show that it earned €11.8 million in revenue from renting accommodation to students.

Universities say that any surplus earned from providing students with rooms is ploughed back into maintaining and refurbishing existing facilities or building new accommodation where needed.

Planners also gave National University Ireland Galway approval for 674 new student beds at its northern campus on Newcastle Road in the city in 2019.

According to its last annual report, the university earned €5.2 million from student rents in the 12 months ended September 30th.

An Bord Pleanála allowed applications for 5,171 student beds over 2017 and 2018, its figures show.

The biggest project to get the go-ahead over the two years was a proposal from University College Dublin for a complex to house 2,178 students, which got approval early in 2018.

This was a “partial grant” according to An Bord Pleanála, as the third level institution actually sought permission to build enough apartments for 3,006 students, almost doubling existing capacity.

Cost of development

At the time that it emerged that UCD was planning to add to its on-campus accommodation, the cost of the development was estimated at €300 million.

Surveys regularly bill the Dublin college as having the most expensive rooms. Last autumn, reports said that accommodation in its Roebuck Castle cost €11,600 a year.

Not all the 3,000-plus students who now rent accommodation from UCD pay those sums. The university earned €28.6 million from student rents in the 12 months to September 30th last year, its accounts show

Also in 2018, the board gave University College Cork (UCC) permission to build 255 student beds at Victoria Cross, about 10 minutes walk from its campus. UCC earned €7.8 million from student rents in the 12 months ended September 30th, 2018, according to its figures.