GMIT and NUI Galway Students’ Unions have strongly criticised the ‘not in my backyard’ attitude to student accommodation from residents in the Newcastle area.
Both the NUIG and GMIT student bodies slammed the opposition from local residents and councillors to the construction of 400 student bedrooms on the site of the Westwood Hotel.
In a joint statement issued by the unions, GMIT Students’ Union president Mark O’Brien blasted some of the councillors for “jumping in on this discriminatory blockade”.
“We have an accommodation crisis spreading through families and students with rents going through the roof. This number of beds will alleviate the pressure from the 20,000 students in GMIT and NUI Galway scrambling for somewhere to sleep,” Mr O’Brien said.
Around 200 Newcastle and Dangan residents attended a meeting last month entitled ‘Save the Westwood Hotel Campaign’ where the audience unanimously agreed that they were in opposition to the construction of the student accommodation.
NUI Galway Students’ Union President Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh compared the situation with the redevelopment of Trinity Hall in Rathgar, Dublin which was also initially met with resistance against over-concentration of students in that area.
“Today, the Hall that accommodates 1,000 students is well integrated into the community and offers student housing in a convenient location. Diverse and well-balanced local communities have a great potential for regeneration, civic activities and engagement,” he added.
Ziggurat, the UK-based pension fund investment company which purchased the site back in February, plans to construct 1,000 student beds in the city over the coming years.
The company has already constructed similar properties across the UK as well as in Cork and in Dublin.
President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Michael Kerrigan urged residents to be mindful of damaging stereotypes of students.
“With the integrated national approach to student accommodation reflected in regional policies, we believe that both the Council and An Bord Pleanála have been equipped with tools to ensure balanced development of the communities and take a strategic approach to spatial distribution and concentration of particular social groups, particularly students, who are particularly vulnerable group facing the housing crisis,” he said.
■ For more on this story, see the print edition of the Galway City Tribune.