WORK on a controversial scheme to build hundreds of flats on the site of a former Southampton bus depot will start in months, the Daily Echo can reveal.

But the news has been met with anger from residents, furious that more student flats are to be built in the city.

They even claimed that part the city is becoming a "student ghetto".

The 435-bed student accommodation complex on the former bus depot in Portswood will begin in January, it has been announced.

The Portswood Road development, which will also include communal, private dining and dedicated study areas, a movie room and a large social hub.

It is the second scheme of its type to be built in the city by Vita Student.

Vita Student, which also owns Richmond House in Terminus Terrace - an existing student complex in the city - where students are charged from £159 a week for a studio flat.

The firm acquired the site along with existing planning permission from Orchard Homes.

The original development, given the go-ahead by Southampton City Council last year, was for a complex made up of 349 student flats, expected to cost in the region of £20m.

David Wardell, Portswood Central Resident’s Association’s vice chair, said: “We are now looking at another large student accommodation development, meaning Portswood becomes, even more, less diverse and more like a student ghetto.

“From the association’s point of view we are obviously disappointed - it is massively away from the original mix of family homes and student accommodation, which also included a doctor’s surgery.

“I have no objection to students whatsoever and I wish the university well as I realised what an important industrial business it is.

"It is just a shame more and more houses are becoming student rentals instead of being occupied by residents.”

Jerry Gillen, Highfield Residents Association’s vice chairman, said if the scheme required a new planning application they would strongly oppose it as around 40 per cent of Portswood was already made up of students.

“The last thing we need is more student accommodation.

“Portswood already has more houses of multiple occupation than any other area in the city. It affects the character and amenity of the area.

"It encourages the wrong type of businesses – there are more take-away outlets and off-licences than we could ever need. It causes late-night nuisances and bad behaviour – it is the last thing we needed.

“One has to ask why the council did not apply a legal condition to ensure family homes were included on that site, which were a part of the original application.”

Portswood ward Councillor Paul O'Neill said he would have preferred to see social housing on the site.

“I think the key thing here is to ensure parking is not compromised for existing residents. Students are not supposed to bring cars to the accommodation but we know they do,” he added.

Lee McLean, Vita Student’s managing director, said it would help meet the "ever growing demand" for high-end, student living in the city.

He added: “The location of Portswood Road is exceptional and this news is a significant milestone for our business.

"Our confidence to open a second residence in the city reflects the huge demand for Vita Student’s unique product and position in the market.

“We’re committed to helping our residents feel right at home here and that job is made so much easier by the warm and welcoming people of Southampton.

“We’re incredibly proud of our relationship with the local community and strongly believe the development will be a major social and economic benefit to the area.”