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Supplementary planning guidance

Student accommodation

  • Supplementary Planning Guidance

    In 2016, we introduced Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) in Belfast.  It gives extra advice and guidance to developers, the public and planning officers when working on planning applications for PBMSA developments in the City.

    The guidance is structured into six planning issues, including:

    1. Location and accessibility: the development should be at a location that is easily accessible to university or college campuses by sustainable transport modes.
    2. Design quality: the layout, design and facilities provided within a development should be of high standards.
    3. Impact and scale: the development should be designed in a way that does not conflict with properties close by or the general amenity of the surrounding area.
    4. Management: the development has appropriate management in place to create a positive and safe living environment for students while reducing any potential negative impacts from occupants.
    5. Need: there is a need for the type of accommodation proposed.
    6. Planning agreements: planning agreements and related developer contributions may be required for Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation where conditions alone cannot secure planning.

    The SPG was introduced following public consultation and a summary of the consultation responses and the changes made to the final guidance document is available below. The guidance has also been subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) screening exercise and Equality and Good Relations screening.

    We recommend that you read the SPG document alongside the wider regional and local planning policy context and our associated Best Practice Guide.

  • Best practice guide

    We have also developed a Best Practice Guide for Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) in Belfast which will encourage prospective developers to develop good quality PBMSA in the right locations.

    This guide explains how new developments can be planned and designed before planning applications are submitted and provides advice in the following eight areas:

    1. Pre-application: encouraging early engagement with us and local communities
    2. Location: promoting suitable locations within the city centre 
    3. Policy: outlining relevant planning policy constraints
    4. Design: encouraging good quality, well designed PBMSA in terms of layout, accommodation mix, open space, parking, facilities, waste and recycling, safety and crime prevention and energy reduction
    5. Impact: reducing negative effects whilst capturing any positive impacts of PBMSA development
    6. Management: ensuring effective management arrangements to deliver a safe and positive environment for students, whilst reducing the risk of negative impacts on the local community
    7. Need: ensuring the right balance between meeting student housing needs and preventing an over-supply of PBMSA
    8. Planning agreement and developer contributions: summarising issues in relation to PBMSA where we may consider the use of planning agreements

    Read the guide

  • Documents

    PBMSA Supplementary Planning Guidance

    This Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) provides additional advice and guidance specific to Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) in Belfast.

    Read PBMSA Supplementary Planning Guidance

    PBMSA, Supplementary Planning Guidance consultation report 

    Provides a summary of the consultation process, comments received and changes made as a result during the preparation of the PBMSA SPG.

    Read the report

    PBMSA, SPG, Strategic Environmental Assessment screening report 

    Reviews the impact of the PBMSA SPG on the environment in accordance with the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations.

    PBMSA equality screening document 

    Summarises the Equality and Good Relations consideration taken into account when preparing the PBMSA SPG.

    Read the equality screening document

    Planning and Place advice note 

    Provides detailed, technical planning advice around the approach to PBMSA in Belfast and how good quality developments can be encouraged in the right locations.

    Read the planning and place advice note

    To request a copy of any of these documents in an alternative format, email

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