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Planning for Student Accommodation

Nottingham is a university city with two highly regarded Universities, namely the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. Important to Nottingham’s national and international reputation, the universities attract substantial investment, provide considerable local employment and support growth across a range of sectors.

Set out below is some useful information on student accommodation and the monitoring the Council undertakes on the Council's Local Plan related policies. Please also read the latest Student Accommodation Update Report.

There has been a growing student population in Nottingham in recent years and therefore it is important that the Council, along with its partners help to facilitate growth in suitable student accommodation.  

The development of such a thriving education sector has had a significant impact on the characteristics of Nottingham’s population and its associated housing requirements. Whilst the continued growth and success of the sector is strongly supported, as reflected by Local Plan Policy LS2, it is important to ensure that planning policies provide a suitable framework to address the particular housing needs associated with this.  This needs to be done in a way that supports the creation of sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities throughout the City in line with the National Planning Policy Framework and Policy 8 of the Core Strategy.

The Council utilises Council Tax Exemption data to help monitor the location of students within the City. This is not a perfect science as it relies on all people within a household being registered as a full-time student, however it does give a reasonably good indication of where students live within the city. 

This data alongside other known Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) is used in the assessment of planning application for the change of use of C3 Traditional Housing to C4 HMOs (required as a result of the Article 4 Direction). It is also used to determine applications for large HMOs (6 or more occupants) and for the extension to C4 properties that give rise to additional bedrooms.  See Policy HO6: Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and Purpose Built Student Accommodation and Appendix 6 of the Local Plan.

Generally, in areas of the City which are not being promoted by Purpose Built Student Accommodation and there is a concentration level of over 10% of HMOs/student households, this constitutes a 'significant concentration' and such applications will be resisted.

The table and graph below show the Council Tax of Student Exemptions (CTEs) broken down for those classed as 'halls' (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) and 'student households' (on-street housing). These figures are refined on an annual basis with an update provided from Council Tax data extracted in November.

Although the number of CTEs has seen a year on year rise, the number of students has increased substantially too. The vast majority increases in CTEs has been in PBSA with on-street exemptions showing a gradual fall.  


  Student household (on street) Student Hall of Residence (PBSA) Total CTEs
2009 6,965 2,733 9,698
2010 6,899 2,885 9,784
2011 7,658 3,521 11,179
2012 7,800 4,071 11,871
2013 7,310 4,254 11,564
2014 6,457 4,321 10,778
2015 6,084 4,572 10,656
2016 6,170 5,413 11,583
2017 6,029 6,272 12,301
2018 6,323 6,970 13,293
2019 6,610 7,693 14,303
2020 6,620 8,970 15,590
2021 6,900 9,348 16,248
2022 6,748 10,064 16,812
2023 6,611 11,084 17,695


Students Live Graph 1


Students Live Graph 2

The Council is required to publish an annual  Authority Monitoring Report  and part of this monitors student accommodation.

Given the demand for student accommodation including on-street traditional housing and Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) it is considered important to have the most up-to-date information available. The AMR provides additional data related to Student Concentration Map (Appendix 3), Student bedspaces completed and projected for Academic Year 2020/21 (Appendix 4) and details of future student accommodation (Appendix 5).

Restrictions on HMO and permitted development

An Article 4 Direction (A4D) removes the right to carry out certain types of 'permitted development'. In Nottingham an A4D was imposed in 2012 requiring a planning application to be submitted to convert a family dwelling (C3) to an HMO (C4) with between 3 and 6 unrelated people sharing. Planning permission is required for properties shared by 7 or more unrelated people.

This A4D covers the whole of the City.

Further information about applying for the change of use or extension of a C4 property is available on our Restrictions on HMO and permitted development web page.  

The Council has an extensive database of the Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) within the City.  This data is used to monitor the pipeline of PBSA coming forward and to carry out the annual vacancy survey. This data is now available within our PBSA App

Nottingham PBSA Dashboard

This data is also accessible through the Nottingham PBSA Dashboard. This Dashboard shows details such as the number of operational PBSA schemes in Nottingham, total bedspaces, and the distribution between studio and cluster beds.

Additionally, the Dashboard provides insights into the expected delivery of PBSA schemes for the next three years. It's important to note that these anticipated schemes are those that either have obtained or are likely to gain planning permission. However, there is no guarantee that all of these schemes will materialise or deliver the quantum of development that is shown.

Furthermore, the Dashboard excludes other schemes/sites that are allocated for PBSA, are at the pre-application stage or those to be submitted in the coming years due to the higher uncertainty regarding their bedspaces. 

Consequently, the numbers for later years may appear lower, reflecting the uncertainty and unknown nature of future development.

Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) app

The PBSA App shows the location of all known PBSA within the City as well as schemes which are likely to come forward in the next few years (with or likely to get planning permission).  It is also possible to download the data in Excel format (see below).  The data is updated including the likely date a scheme will become operational periodically and includes a breakdown of studio and cluster bedspaces per scheme. 

If you have any questions in regard to using the PBSA App please email in the first instance.

Downloading the PBSA data into Excel format

  • Open the PBSA app.
  • Click on the layers icon
  • Click the 3 dots at the end of the Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) layer
  • Click “View Attribute Table”
  • Click "Export all the CSV"
  • This should then download the data which you can open in Excel

To use the data in the future ensure you “save as” and change the extension to a suitable Excel format (eg “XLSX”).


Rent levels within Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) or on street houses rented to students are not directly monitored by the Council. Unipol (Student Accommodation charity) operates in Nottingham and who the Council works very closely with Unipol.


  • There is a wide range of PBSA rents from approx. £135 to £375 depending on the location of the scheme, the facilities offered and the size and type of room.
  • The figures include both individual Studio flats as well as bedspaces within cluster flats.
  • There are only a few PBSA schemes which are lower in rent than on street HMOs and in these cases, it is only part of those schemes which are lower in price. These will inevitably be older PBSA which are often less accessible and likely to offer less facilities both within the room (e.g. no En-Suite) or within the PBSA scheme itself (less social facilities including for example, no gym, cinema etc).
  • The most expensive scheme is charging approx. £375 per week for the 2024-25 academic year.
  • Please view a graph showing the 2024 - 2025 Nottingham Weekly Rent Comparison (44 weeks)


Latest Vacancy Survey 2022-23

For the past 9 years the Council has carried out an annual Occupancy Survey on the occupation levels of Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).

Despite a significant growth in the amount of PBSA bedspaces there are no signs that this growth has led to a fall in occupation levels.  In fact, for the 9 years of the survey the vacancy levels have been below 2%*.  

The results are set out below

Academic Year Reported Vacancy Rate %
2022/23 0.8
2021-22 1.1%
2020-21 N/A*
2019-20 0.6%
2018-19 0.3%
2017-18 0.5%
2016-17 1.2%
2015-16 0.7%
2014-15 1.6%
  • Due to the pandemic, the vacancy survey was carried out differently for the academic year 2020-21.  See the PBSA Vacancy Results 2021-22.

Latest Vacancy Survey 2022-23

The results from the PBSA Vacancy Survey 2022-23 show that the Nottingham market remains a very strong market with consistently low vacancy rates for all the years the survey has been carried out. 

A further PBSA vacancy survey is planned for the current academic year (2023/24) and details will be provided when available.  


In 2021 the Council adopted the Affordable Housing Contributions arising from Student Accommodation Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).  

The SPD provides guidance to developers on the Council's new requirements for developer contributions from Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) to be used towards affordable housing. This supplements Policy 8 of the Aligned Core Strategy 2014 (ACS) and Policy HO3: Affordable Housing in the Land and Planning Policies Local Plan Part 2 - 2020 (LAPP).  In particular, it sets out the commuted sum that will be required in lieu of on-site affordable housing provision on sites providing PBSA within Nottingham City and explains the mechanism for calculating these contributions.

Further details can be found on the Affordable Housing Contributions arising from Student Accommodation Supplementary Planning Document web page.  Note that the affordable housing contributions are subject to annual review with details set out on the S106 revised contributions webpage.

Relevant Local Plan Policies

When considering application for PBSA schemes, either new build or from the conversion of existing buildings, the Council will examine policies within the adopted Local Plan. In particular, attention will be given to Policy HO5: Locations for Purpose Built Student Accommodation and Policy HO6: Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and Purpose Built Student Accommodation.

Location of new PBSA

In terms of locations for new PBSA, policy HO5 sets out that schemes within the following sites are in principle acceptable;

Site allocations SR34, SR35, SR45, SR53, SR60, SR63, SR66 and SR69;

University campuses (as defined in Policy LS2: Supporting the Growth of Further and Higher Education Facilities);

Within the City Centre boundary (as shown on the Policies Map), subject to accordance with site and area specific policies, including relevant ‘Quarter Policies’ but excluding the areas of predominantly family housing;

Above shopping and commercial frontages within defined Town, District and Local Centres, and within other shopping and commercial frontages on main transport routes where this assists in the regeneration of underused sites and premises and is consistent with relevant defined Centre policies.

Typology of bedspaces within PBSA

Both Policy HO5 and HO6 have a requirement that the developer must demonstrate the need for the new PBSA scheme. This should not solely relate to the total number of bedspaces but how the proposed scheme will meet the needs of the student accommodation market.

As part of the Strategic Greater Nottingham Local Plan evidence base a recent  Greater Nottingham and Ashfield Housing Needs Update 2024 has been commissioned to provide evidence drawing on the latest data including the 2021 Census to support housing market interventions. It includes discussions on student accommodation needs within the Local Plan area. This notes that “… the PBSA market is very mature in Nottingham so to allow further expansion there also needs to be a widening of the market to include accommodation for “returners”, postgraduates and even students with families who all tend to prefer or require larger accommodation over living in studios”. 

The report goes on to say that PBSA should also deliver a wider range of products which could help support drawing students out of HMOs into PBSA by prioritising cluster flats and other alternative forms of PBSA.

A recent Student Accommodation Update Report produced by the Council concludes that there is a broad spectrum of student preferences, but that the focus should be on offering a diverse range of housing options within PBSA, particularly encouraging cluster-based accommodation rather than single-bedroom studios. This approach aims to attract students who traditionally prefer shared living arrangements in on-street housing and so as to help rebalance those communities where there are large numbers of students living. New PBSA schemes should therefore be cluster bed led, with the majority of the accommodation designed for students who wish to live in shared accommodation.

Ability for adaption of PBSA for alternative general housing

Policy HO6 also requires the developer to show that the proposed PBSA scheme is capable of being re-configured through internal alterations to meet general housing needs in the future. Details should be provided on how the internal layout can be refigured to meet this alternative general housing.

Other considerations

In addition, other aspects that will be considered include

  • The existing proportion of HMOs and / or other Student Households in the area and whether this proportion amounts or will amount to a ‘Significant Concentration’ (calculated using the methodology shown in the Local Plan - Appendix 6) apart from PBSA within areas identified in Policy HO5 where new PBSA is encouraged;
  • The individual characteristics of the building or site and immediate locality;
  • Any evidence of existing HMO and purpose built accommodation provision within the immediate vicinity of the site that already impacts on local character and amenity;
  • The impact the proposed development would have on the character and amenity of the area or site having particular regard to the criteria set out in Policy DE1: Building Design and Use and Policy DE2: Context and Place Making
  • Whether the proposal would incorporate adequate management arrangements, and an appropriate level of car and cycle parking having regard to the location, scale and nature of the development.
  • Whether the proposal would result in the positive re-use of an existing vacant building or site that would have wider regeneration benefits;
  • Whether the proposal in respect of purpose built accommodation includes appropriate room sizes and provides adequate communal space/ facilities, and student drop off/ collection arrangements.

If you have a specific scheme in mind you are advised to seek pre-application advice from our Development Management Teams.  

Student Living Strategy

In partnership with the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University the Council has developed the Nottingham Student Living Strategy.

Further details can be found on the Student Living Strategy webpage.

The Local Plan team are hybrid working and so you are advised to make initial contact by emailing

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