Turley releases new report ‘PBSA in London: a capital opportunity?’

The demand for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) in key UK cities has not eased. Turley’s new report highlights the endless investment opportunities that the sector provides.

Turley's new report delves into the the importance of the PBSA sector during the current supply/demand imbalance and its prominence in London | PBSA News

Independent advisors Turley has released a new report titled ’PBSA in London: a capital opportunity’ that aims to offer insights into how London Plan Policy H15 – providing a blueprint for student housing schemes and local policy alike – is influencing decisions across the city’s boroughs.

The development of PBSA in London is on the rise as the demand for much-needed student homes is continually increasing.

From January 2020 to August 2023, Turley has gathered and analysed data on all Greater London Authority (GLA) referrable PBSA schemes in London.

“The evolving PBSA landscape in London reflects the city’s increasingly adaptive approach to housing and development. As educational facilities continue to expand, so does the demand for suitable student accommodation. The rising prominence of PBSA showcases London’s ability to recognise and adapt to these demands.”

Catriona Fraser, Director of Planning, Turley

Turley’s report provides a comprehensive exploration of this dataset, revealing a clear picture of the evolving PBSA landscape in London with insight into local planning nuances, scheme characteristics, design standards, amenities and more.

During the academic year of 2021/22, London welcomed over 374,000 full-time students living in London, however, had only 97,000 PBSA beds available.

Subsequent years have seen an upturn in approvals, with 11 new PBSA schemes greenlit in 2022 and eight schemes approved by the end of August this year.

“Given the constraints of urban spaces, PBSA represents a unique opportunity. Leveraging previously industrial or vacant lands, or even repurposing extant permissions, provides a pathway to meet the ever-growing housing demands while supporting vibrant and diverse communities.”

Alice Hawkins, Senior Planner, Turley

The report also highlights Turley’s involvement in the PBSA sector, having advised on numerous PBSA schemes in London following the adoption of the London Plan.

Key takeaways from the report include new insights on the following:

  • Central London locations have become hotspots for PBSA with many higher education facilities located in these areas. LB Southwark alone saw 11 new PBSA schemes in this report’s evaluation period. Meanwhile, East London, especially regions like LLDC, LB Newham and LB Tower Hamlets, is also showing a rise in PBSA developments.
  • Mixed-use schemes are most prominent in the sector, with 92% incorporating various uses. Notably, 38% also included traditional residential (C3) components, promoting the ‘mixed and balanced communities’ vision required by Policy H15.
  • Sites previously designated as industrial, vacant or office spaces are experiencing a revival and have been primary targets for transformation into PBSA. This strategic repurposing indicates a proactive approach to utilising available spaces in the capital.
  • Design standards have gravitated towards clusters, accounting for an average provision of 66%, with schemes typically mixed cluster and studio accommodation. Students typically benefit from approximately 20-21 sqm of internal space, split across private and communal.
  • Existing land permissions are offering opportunity, with 30% of PBSA schemes on a site with previous extant permission, typically residential-led, and the PBSA element proposed to either partially or completely replace the residential element. The effectiveness of this approach across all areas of London remains to be seen.