Plymouth set to benefit from huge investment in flats for overseas students, expert predicts
DEVELOPERS are set to bring a £5million bonanza to Plymouth's economy by turning four disused city centre buildings into flats for foreign students.
The former Halifax bank building on the corner of Mayflower Street and Armada Way is about to be transformed into living quarters by Pillar Land Securities.
North Hill-based Clever Student Lets has been involved in masterminding the lay-out of what will be 40 flats.
Henry Hutchins, a director of Clever Student Lets, is busy working with developers and Plymouth University to entice foreign students, particularly from China, to the city.
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He said: "The first students will be moving into (the ex-Halifax building) in September.
"This building was an absolute eyesore, a blot on Plymouth, but now it's being turned into something that generates income and profit for Plymouth and will renovate the whole area.
"We'll put about 60 students there and all the nearby businesses will benefit."
And the former bank isn't the only empty city property set to be transformed into student flats.
The one-time Buckwell House Jobcentre, in Buckwell Street, Bretonside, is due to be transformed, by city developer Brunswick, into 60 en-suite flats, Mr Hutchins said.
These will offer a new style of "experience" living for students and he said: "We are even talking of putting a cinema in there."
The former driving test centre in Houndiscombe Road, off Mutley Plain, is also being worked on and turned into 30 flats for overseas students, by Newton Ferrers-based Wharfdale. And a fourth building is due to be transformed in the Western Approach area, with another in Mayflower Street a possibility to follow, Mr Hutchins said.
Mr Hutchins, who works with the university's Plymouth Devon International College to bring overseas students to the city, said the developments are set to pump £5million into the city's economy, plus £10million a year in business rates.
He said attracting foreign students is now key for Plymouth's economy, estimating there are about 4,000 foreign students already in the city, of which 2,500 are Chinese. And these students bring extensive spending power, many having plentiful allowances from wealthy parents.
And Mr Hutchins said that with British students demanding a higher grade of accommodation than in by-gone days, stereotyped by the Young Ones TV comedy in the 1980s, the onus is on providing an even more enhanced experience for overseas learners.
His Plymouth lettings are already more than half filled for September's university entry, and he said: "These students are bringing in more money than any tourist – and foreign currency. They are here and spending, and improving the city's name internationally."
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