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Too Many City Flats?
Leicester has many building blocks being developed into city living apartments. But is there a need for so many? BBC Leicester's Helen McCarthy investigates... Listen to her report and our interviews!
Westbridge Wharf, St George's development, Leicester Square, Colton Square, and Thames Tower are to name a few of the many apartment blocks being developed in the City of Leicester.
Some people would say they are everywhere you turn - purpose-built flats, converted flats, flats under construction an so on.
But is this high-rise style of city living providing much-needed homes or are they in danger of standing empty and abandoned as the previously buoyant property market turns?
Listen: Too Many City Flats?
Is the demand for so many city living flats now flat?
BBC Leicester's Helen McCarthy took to the streets of Leicester to investigate. Listen to what she found out...
St George's South, now known as Leicester's Cultural Quarter features the state-of-the-art performing arts centre, the Queen Street Loft Apartments and other facilities. Whereas the north side is very different.
Peter Wilkinson from Landmark Planning Limited explained what he thought of the two areas of the city and why some areas are more popular than others.
"It's clearly a difficult market, I think there are a number of voids.
"Four to five years ago there was a higher demand for apartments than supply, but now the supply is overshooting the demand - so consequently you then have voids, which clearly affects the values of the properties."
Leicester's state-of-the-art new theatre
"St George's North doesn't look as attractive and there's not much happening in terms of activities like theatres and restaurants.
"People are obviously going to go for the more attractive area. Therefore it's going to be more difficult to sell the apartments in those unfortunate areas, but equally the environment around needs to improve.
"This then puts pressure on the city council to spend even more money trying to make the area more attractive so more apartments are built to satisfy the housing market target that the Government has given."
Listen: Estate Agent Interview
James Van Oppen, a director from James Sellicks Estate Agents in Leicester doesn't believe that we have saturated the market just yet. Listen to his interview...
"There is certainly a problem with the quality of design you can see a stark contrast between the good schemes and those which are plain and ordinary.
"The market will determine the volume and I don't think the Leicester City Council will have to. There's a lot of unsold apartments at the moment, but I feel that's because they've built the wrong flats.
"I do think there's a shortage of small affordable city centre accommodation and a balance will soon be found.
"Maybe the city council should concentrate on commercial premises as well and not just residential properties so we can retain graduates."
However, James is confident that the market for city centre apartments has a lively future.
"Demand is going to be driven by jobs and jobs are coming with the Shires extension, the Curve and new offices. There are lots of benefits to living in the city centre... I'm very optimistic about the general housing market and values in the city."
Listen: Auctioneer & Cllr Interviews
Kal Sangra of Shonki Brothers in Leicester has seen a decline in the demand for city centre flats of the most exclusive kind.
But he says that at the lower end of the market there is still interest.
The City Council has little power to influence the kind of building that are converted and put up beyond imposing a quota for affordable housing.
Listen to the interview with Kal and Councillor Bill Skelton...
Cllr. Bill Skelton, chair of the City Council's Planning Committee says, "We can't stop flats being put up so long as the application is submitted properly."
Some agents in Leicester would say that if the flats in the city are not sold eventually they'll have to be rented out.
However, the question remains... What will happen to the apartments if they're left empty? Could they be vulnerable to vandalism and crime?
It seems that in the end the market will find its own level. But it remains to be seen how many unoccupied buildings remain after that level has been arrived at.
last updated: 08/05/2008 at 16:22