Remaking Glasgow: Fresh plans put forward to create student accommodation at former Marks & Spencer store

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Fresh plans to demolish the former Marks & Spencer store on Sauchiehall Street and build student flats have been revealed.

Glasgow’s planning committee rejected Fusion Student’s initial bid in November, but the firm has returned with a revised application.

Changes include reducing the height of the proposed building, after councillors believed the first scheme would have “an over-dominant impact”.

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Fusion’s plan, which would retain the 1930s Marks & Spencer façade, would provide student accommodation for over 600 people as well as five commercial units in a “reinstated Wellington Arcade”.

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The earlier application was refused as the city’s planning committee believed it would be “harmful” to the surrounding conservation area and would “contribute to an over-provision of student accommodation in the vicinity relative to mainstream residential accommodation”.

Planning officials had recommended the scheme be approved but the committee was split 50/50 on whether to give the green light. The chair, Cllr Elaine Gallagher, Greens, used her deciding vote to reject the application.

She said: “I would like the developers to look harder at the possibility of mainstream accommodation on this site so I am going to reject it and ask them to look further at this.”

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Fusion’s latest plans state the project would provide “conveniently situated” student housing, offering “various living options”. The firm believes the proposals would address “the pressing demand-supply gap in Glasgow’s purpose-built student accommodation sector”.

“Students currently face significant barriers when searching for suitable accommodation in the city, and this project aims to alleviate that problem,” the application adds.

Under the scheme, the original Marks & Spencer façade would be retained while an arcade linking Sauchiehall Street to Renfrew Street would be reintroduced.

Plans state the building would be suitable for a “comparatively ‘light touch’ redevelopment” to an alternative use, rather than student flats, if “future social or market conditions necessitate”. They suggest it could become build-to-rent homes or a hotel.

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The developers have met with council officials since the original plans were refused. Fusion believes the previous form was “an acceptable mass for this site”, but the proposals have been adjusted.

Initially, the building would have been five to eight storeys facing Sauchiehall Street and 11 to 18 storeys on Renfrew Street.

The new plans state: “The Renfrew Street block incorporates a reduction in mass of four storeys to the Renfrew Street side, now including an open-framed section with a further roof terrace, and is now proposed to be a storey shorter in its entirety.

“The remaining floors from level eight to 16 have been extended by one bay (one room) to the south.”

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They continue: “Facing onto Sauchiehall Street the building is five and eight storeys in height, whilst facing Renfrew Street the building is 11 and 17 storeys in height, with open-framed sections to both sides of the site to decrease the impact of its mass and provide roof terraces for residents.”

The application also adds the “proposed height and mass is comparable to neighbouring buildings and significantly lower” than an approved aparthotel plan at Cambridge Street.

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