Shropshire Star

Answers wanted for future of Shrewsbury student flats after closure of university campus

Opposition councillors will seek answers from Shropshire Council’s cabinet next week following the closure of Shrewsbury’s university campus.

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There are questions over the future use of the accomodation at Mardol House in Shrewsbury.

The future of two student accommodation buildings in the town is unclear following Chester University’s surprise decision to shut the doors of its University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) operation earlier this year.

Liberal Democrat councillor David Vasmer, who represents Underdale on Shropshire Council, says the university is a “failed investment”, and has called for answers on the cost of the project in a written question to the council’s cabinet, which is due to meet on Thursday, April 18.

Councillor Vasmer will ask the cabinet to outline its future plans for council-owned student accommodation buildings, and has also requested a full figure for the amount invested in the university project by Shropshire Council since 2014.

Shropshire Council currently owns two Shrewsbury town-centre buildings which were developed between 2015 and 2018 in order to support the university’s opening and proposed ongoing expansion.

Mardol House, above Shrewsbury’s Market Hall, is currently able to house around 85 students, but will be empty when the university closes its doors in Shrewsbury at the end of term. It was converted into student accommodation by Shropshire Council at a cost of £4.3million in 2015.

The upper floors of the Market Hall building had been empty for more than ten years prior to the conversion into student flats, having previously been used as a magistrates court and offices.

The Tannery building on St Austin’s Street houses up to 62 students and was constructed in 2018 at a cost of around £7.8million on the site of the town’s former sixth form college.

During its time in Shrewsbury, Chester University has also used the Guildhall building rent free, a deal valued at £370,000 per annum.

However according to a report put before council in 2021 by Director of Place Mark Barrow, all other initial costs relating to the early “delivery and development of the UCS project” were borne by the university, aside from accommodation costs.

A report on a future use for the historic Rowley’s House building on Barker Street, which was initially used for teaching by Chester University but later handed back to the council, is also due to be completed this spring.

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet will meet at Shirehall next week.