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City MP demands meeting with Minister over Stanhope House student accommodation crisis

On 9 September, Prime Student Living (PSL), who are managing a new student development named Stanhope House on Commercial Road, failed to provide accommodation for over 250 students at the start of term. 

Since then, Stephen Morgan MP has submitted written questions to the Department for Education, written to PSL directly, written to the regulator, visited the site, met with the university, spoken out in the media, spoken directly with students affected and worked alongside Cllr Cal Corkery.

In Mr Morgan’s latest bid to bridge the gap in regulation and help affected local students, the city MP has written to the Government Minister responsible demanding an urgent meeting.

Mr Morgan Said:

“I have spoken to students impacted by this issue and I am deeply concerned about the effect that the PSL failure is having on them.

Some have been rehoused miles away from lectures and friends, others in places with no wi-fi. The opening weeks of university play a crucial role in academic life and career path, I will not allow private accommodation providers to recklessly gamble with Portsmouth students’ futures.

When I submitted parliamentary written questions to the Minister, he regrettably said that this was not a Government matter. I refuse to accept this and have written demanding a meeting so that we can work together to stop this from happening again

I look forward to continuing to work alongside Cllr Cal Corkery in standing up for Portsmouth students and ensuring they have a platform to be heard on”.

There have been widespread reports of students affected are feeling anxious about their living conditions. Many have outlined deep-set disappointment with the £150 that they have been issued which does not even cover one week’s rent.

In response to Mr Morgan’s written questions, the Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation replied:

“Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous bodies, independent from government; government plays no direct role in the provision of student residential accommodation” (full response in public domain).

Another key point raised by the Portsmouth South MP is that the taxpayer is essentially bankrolling these developments and therefore it is in the public interest to ensure they are of an acceptable standard.

Mr Morgan said:

“No matter which city you enter in the UK, you will notice an everchanging skyline continually infiltrated by new blocks of student flats.

While these are often private investments, make no mistake this funding comes from the tax payers’ purse via student maintenance loans.

Transparency, honesty, and continuity. This is not too much to ask of Government when it comes to regulating student accommodation.”

Mr Morgan and the University of Portsmouth are both in consensus that there is a clear regulatory gap exists. The Office for Students (OfS) regulates universities but has no regulatory power over private student accommodation providers. This clear gap in regulation is leaving students open to exploitation

On how he wants to see this resolved, Mr Morgan said:

“A similar problem occurred last year with Crown Place and I have seen that there have been 20 alike cases around the country this year alone.

The Government has a responsibility to our students, and it is not good enough to simply shift blame to private companies.

This is not the first time that this has happened. I want to make sure it is the last.

There is essentially inadequate regulation of purpose build student accommodation and we need to see more inclusive legislation that gives students more protection.

I look forward to the Minister responding to my meeting request so that we can get on with taking action over this matter.”

Stephen Morgan MP is in regular and constant communication with the University of Portsmouth over this matter and has vowed to submit a Westminster Hall debate on the topic if the Government Minister refuses to accommodate a meeting.