Balance the needs of Stenden and residents

ACCOMMODATION for Stenden students presents a quandary for town planning in Port Alfred.

Several years ago Stenden South Africa management indicated they might have to pack up and leave town because of their difficulties securing sufficient and satisfactory accommodation for their students.

The mother university in Holland has made a decision not to spend money on building hostels or residences, but only on infrastructure for its core function (classrooms and offices).

Stenden had already pulled students out of guest houses and a hotel in town because of dissatisfaction with the way facilities were being run and concerns over safety.

It prefers accommodation close to campus to make it convenient for students, especially those who do not have their own transport, like their Grand Tour foreign students.

A number of property developers came up with proposals to provide accommodation, but their expectation for returns was too high. Stenden opted rather for the alternative plan by other investors, who proposed buying old houses in the area and making alterations suitable for housing multiple students.

While this suited Stenden, and its current accommodation needs have been fulfilled, it has presented a problem to residents who are not happy about student digs being built next door.

The most common complaints are about noisy, drunken parties till late at night, an increase in crime, lack of parking, contravention of building regulations and rezoning to general residential opening the doorway to multiple buildings and greater numbers of students being accommodated on a single erf.

Ward 10 councillor Ross Purdon is correct when he says Stenden adds value to the town and must be supported, but surely Stenden’s needs must be weighed against the quality of life desired by neighbouring property owners?

Two student accommodation developments in Grand Street, while ideal for Stenden because they are right around the corner from the hospitality school, have raised passionate objections from neighhours, because as Stenden academic dean Wouter Hensens acknowledges, people would prefer not to have a student digs as neighbours.

Thus far, all applications for this type of accommodation have been approved, over the objections of neighbours. It is concerning to think Ndlambe will always find in favour of Stenden’s needs, regardless of the valid objections raised.

Purdon is in a predicament all his own, as he rents accommodation to Stenden students and has to consider proposals for similar ventures. Questions have been raised about his objectivity as he has a pecuniary interest.

Ndlambe (and Purdon) need to be fair and just in how they address this problem and together with Stenden come up with a plan that benefits everyone.

– Jon Houzet

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