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  • Writer's pictureCarolineShah

Student Lives Don't Matter says Kingston Council

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

Kingston Council considers students to be a "transient population" who don't matter

Kingston Council explicitly disregarded student mental health in their justification for the recent approval of a planning application - for which it is joint applicant - to build a series of massive tower blocks in Norbiton, north Kingston

The development of 2100 units in more than 26 high rise blocks will completely overshadow a modern student accommodation block which faces over the land to be developed and contains 300 student rooms

Modelling of the development by Kingston resident, David Horgan, shows that young people living in the VIBE student accommodation building on the Cambridge Road, which currently enjoys a sunny and open south, west and east facing aspect at the rear and to the sides, will end up living in a dark, enclosed environment with views of the blank walls of high-rise towers looming right outside their windows

Another video from the same webpage by Mr Horgan shows that - even in March - the VIBE building will be in the shadow of tower blocks nearly the whole time. Screenshots below are taken from the video at different times of the day:

When discussing the impact that the tower blocks will have, Kingston council officers did not address the effect of overshadowing and loss of daylight and sunlight on the mental health of young people living in the VIBE accommodation, simply stating that the "transient nature of the population" living in the student accommodation” will “temper” the “major adverse effect” from loss of daylight and sunlight to student rooms

Kingston Council officers also stated that “due to the transient nature of the population at this site, the accommodation would not be treated with the same sensitivity as habitable room windows in a dwelling house”, before recommending the scheme for approval

Kingston council officers’ assertion that the “transient” nature of young people who commit to live for one year in university accommodation mitigates the negative impact of loss of daylight and sunlight from the development is unsubstantiated and ignores evidence of the severe mental health challenges to which university students are exposed from the first day they start their university studies and enter their accommodation

A 2021 report by the Office of National Statistics shows that students face the risk of a high level of depression and anxiety even during the first few weeks of living away from home for the first time

The report revealed that the average life satisfaction of students was significantly lower than that of the population of Great Britain as a whole. 37% of first year students were reported as suffering from “moderate to severe” symptoms of depression, significantly higher than the figure of 28% suffered by the general population of 16 to 29 year olds and more than double the figure of 16% suffered by the general adult population

In a September 2020 report, the Office of National Statistics drew attention to how suicide rates among the under 25s have “generally increased in recent years, particularly 10- to 24-year-old females where the rate has increased significantly since 2012 to its highest level with 3.1 deaths per 100,000 females in 2019”, a fact supported by what The Guardian in April 2021 called “growing alarm in recent years about a crisis in student mental health in UK universities

The arrival of Covid 19 and lockdowns has sadly accentuated the pressures faced by students living alone at university

In September 2021, a fresher at Manchester University killed himself while suffering “severe anxiety” while locked down in self -isolation in his room during his first few weeks at university whilst hundreds of thousands of university students have had to endure weeks and months shut up in their rooms during the pandemic, leading to deteriorating mental health for many of these young people

In other words, the 45 or 51 weeks for which students rent a room in the VIBE building is more than long enough for the environment in which those people will be living – including a lack of exposure to sunlight and daylight - to have a significant adverse impact upon those students’ mental health and well-being

The very concept of thinking of students simply as atransient population” in the context of considering people's mental health and well-being is irrelevant and use of the term is unacceptable in the way it dehumanises young adults who have left home and often their country for the first time in order to pursue university studies

The assertion that student rooms are “less sensitive” than “habitable rooms” in a rented or owned flat or house is also complete nonsense

Some students spend all their time in their room, whereas people living in a private flat or house have freedom to move around a wider private space that young people living in shared university accommodation are unable to enjoy. Many non-student rental contracts are also for a minimum of one year, undermining the assertion further

By dismissing young people who are have left home to pursue university studies simply as a transient population” and using this premise to support approval of a planning application for a scheme of multiple high-rise towers that will throw a large south, east and west facing student accommodation block into almost constant darkness, looming over students’ rooms, communal areas and communal outdoor space, Kingston Council is clearly stating that:

Student Lives Don’t Matter

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