At the start of the year, the Leicester Mercury (January 17) reported how local development company, Abode Student Living, had sold two major student accommodation schemes “to American investors in a multi-million pound deal.” Now we are told that Abode have been granted planning permission to demolish Leicester’s eighteenth century heritage to make way for yet another student mega-complex (November 19, Mercury).
But does Leicester really need more overpriced student accomodation?
Furthermore we already know that the two sites previously developed and sold on by Abode (on Newarke Street and Brookland Road) are far from affordable for ordinary students, despite the fact that they are being let SULETS — a rental agency that is jointly owned and run by the Students’ Unions of De Montfort University and Leicester University. Individual rooms at the Brookland Road site garner between £109 and £130 a week in rent.
With student fees rising all the time, universities are now the primary venue where students pay-through-the-nose for an education, that in a sane world should be free, so they can become burdened with massive housing debts to boot.
So it is appropriate that the current chief executive of Leicester Students’ Union and notable SULETS trustee, Trevor Page, recently served as the business development director of the gargantuan private housing company, UNITE Students. There can be no doubt that Mr Page knows a thing or two about squeezing profits from students.
Now returning to the case of Abode and their fetish for demolishing Leicester’s heritage in the name of student profiteering. Although the Leicester Labour Council’s planning committee recently agreed to allow Abode “to knock down numbers 54 to 58 London Road and replace them with a seven storey complex for 142 students,” two Councillors at least felt compelled to oppose the decision.
One of the Councillor’s correctly pointed out that rather than demolishing the premises, a blue heritage plaque should be placed on the building instead. Abode’s spokesperson, however, took this comment and ran with it: saying “the developer” (read demolisher) was “happy to pay for a blue plaque to go up to remind people of what was there.” How thoughtful of Abode to offer to pay for a plaque to commerate their needless destruction of Leicester’s heritage.
However, I would suggest that they save their money, as I sure that if the demolition goes ahead, the people of Leicester would be more than happy to contribute towards the cost of a plaque to immortalise the callous disregard that Abode has for our city with a few thoughtful words of our own choosing.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on November 19.