by Louise Doyle
PLANNING approval for a major development which could help tackle Letterkenny’s student accommodation crisis has been met with “a sigh of relief,” the President of ATU Donegal Students’ Union has said.
The development will see 20 single bedroom, eight twin bedrooms, shared living and associated accommodation built at Sweeney’s Spar Express at Ballyraine.
President of the Atlantic Technological University Students’ Union, Barry Breslin, welcomed the green light for the development and hoped it would help ease the growing pressures on students seeking accommodation.
The move comes amid a deepening housing crisis which, last year, saw accommodation available to students in Letterkenny fall by 63 per cent – at a time when the ATU Donegal campus was anticipating record numbers.
An accommodation list released last August showed an availability of just 123 beds, down from 331 the year previously.
The lack of accommodation has forced some students to attend courses outside the county.
Mr Breslin, who is the SU President for the 23/24 academic year, said he welcomed the news. Prior to his current role within the SU, Mr Breslin was VP Welfare and Equality and saw firsthand on the frontline the many financial hardships endured by students.
“Hearing of this brought a sigh of relief to the team. We are well overdue some good news in relation to accommodation given the recent trend we’ve faced in the last few years,” he said.
He said Donegal ATU is currently preparing a revamped accommodation list and is hoping to attract more landlords.
“We’re looking forward to adding in any members of the public who would like to come on board as landlords for student accommodation. We’re currently doing an overhaul of the current list to have a new list ready to be launched come August,” he added.
Applicant George Sweeney lodged plans with the local authority in March of this year for a change of use from office space to student accommodation on the first and second floor of the building. Proposals also included the construction of a two-storey extension to the rear of the building to provide for the accommodation, additional storage and staff accommodation associated with existing shop on the ground floor.
A roof garden, laundrette, additional parking, and landscaped area was also included in the approved application.
Donegal County Council granted the permission subject to 16 conditions. This included a condition that the development approved shall be let for the purposes of student accommodation only, or accommodation related to an approved Higher Education Institute and only during the academic year and shall not be let or sold on separately as holiday accommodation or as independent living units, without a separate grant of planning permission.