Planning application for much-needed student homes at former Portcullis House site in Glasgow submitted


A PLANNING application for new high-quality student homes on the site of Portcullis House at Charing Cross in Glasgow has been submitted to Glasgow City Council.

Watkin Jones Group, a leading developer and manager of residential for rent has submitted the application for student homes at the former HMRC building on India Street. If consented, the new development will be called The Àrd.

The planning application will regenerate the brownfield site, partially demolishing the existing former HMRC building on India Street and proposing the part-retention of the existing concrete frame. Two high-quality buildings of 36-storeys and 10-storeys, totalling 784 student beds, are proposed.

The development will also provide the charity, Glasgow Social Enterprise Network (GSEN), with a new home as it will occupy a ground floor unit free of charge. Alongside it will be a double height flexible commercial space facing Charing Cross station, which is likely to be used for a café, workspace or similar.

GSEN will use the space for a variety of purposes, including providing training opportunities for both social enterprises and students, as well as delivering a tech recycling programme, offering free or low-cost tech to students and social enterprises, serving to reduce tech waste.

This development will help to address a recognised chronic undersupply of student accommodation in Glasgow. The number of full-time students in the city’s five Higher Education Institutions (‘HEI’) is anticipated to rise from more than 75,000 full time students in 2021/22 to more than 96,000 in 2026/27 as universities continue with their expansion plans.1

On completion, it is estimated that the new resident population will spend an estimated £3.4 million per annum in retail and leisure expenditure, the majority of which will be spent locally. 

The redevelopment of the site will form a significant part of an overall renewal of the west end of the city centre, acting as a catalyst for change and enhancing the vitality of this part of the city. 

A sky lounge on the top floor of the taller building will provide a viewing deck for far reaching views of the surrounding cityscape. These will be used in a highly managed way for pre-booked institutional, civic and business type events. 

Providing high-quality publicly accessible open spaces, the development will include a variety of trees, shrubs and herbaceous planting that will achieve biodiversity net gain against current levels on a site that currently has a low habitat value. Public realm works to be undertaken around the building will provide additional outdoor amenity and activation of the streetscape.

Designed to the highest environmental standards, the development will incorporate the use of low and zero carbon technologies such as heat pumps and low energy lighting and is highly accessible by public transport and pedestrian/cycle routes.


Watkin Jones has extensive experience of working in Glasgow, completing ten managed student accommodation developments since 2011, and delivering just under 4,000 student homes in the city to date.

The Àrd scheme has been designed by Hawkins Brown, who are based locally and have a good track record in the city, including the regeneration of Custom House Quay and Carlton Place for Glasgow City Council. 

Iain Smith, Planning Director of Watkin Jones, commented: “This exciting development at The Àrd will regenerate a brownfield site bringing vitality to this part of the city, providing high-quality and much-needed student homes, in addition to greatly increased public realm.

“It will help to address a chronic undersupply of student accommodation, as well as repopulating the city centre and benefit local businesses as part of an overall renewal of the west end.

“We are delighted to welcome Glasgow Social Enterprise Network who will accommodate space in the building, should it be consented. This organisation will support the delivery of the next generation of entrepreneurs, also working with those students living in the building.”

Jennifer Robertson, Director of Glasgow Social Enterprise Network, commented: “The provision of a new multi-function space for GSEN at The Àrd is a fantastic opportunity, as we continue to expand our operations.

“Working with the five universities in Glasgow, this is an ideally located home for us, providing excellent access to the city’s extensive student population.

“Providing opportunities for social enterprises and students, The Àrd will support the delivery of the next generation of entrepreneurs and social and environmental innovators.”

Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, commented: “It is fantastic to see this level of investment being proposed for Glasgow by a developer with an exceptional track record for investment in the city.

“The student age population in Glasgow is increasing, and the city’s three largest institutions are all targeting continued, significant growth in their latest strategic plans.

“Delivering high-quality student homes will address this increasing demand and will also serve to retain skilled young people in the city as well as regenerating the city centre, which is a key aspiration of the city council.

“The site has excellent transport links and local businesses will clearly benefit from these proposals. Innovative developments such as this are to be greatly welcomed.” 

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