Building more student accommodation won't free up local housing and that is not Cornwall Council's intention, according to one of the county's principal planning officers.

During an appeal hearing at Falmouth Rugby Club on Wednesday [8/11] regarding the plans for a 190 bed, four storey accommodation complex at the site of the former Ocean Bowl in Falmouth, a planning inspector enumerated several benefits claimed by the developers.

They included: meeting a need for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA), increasing the choice and quality of PBSA, reusing brownfield land, economic benefits resulting from increased higher education access, as well as from construction spend and student spending, and freeing up homes currently used for houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs).

However principal planning officer James Holman said this list had made it look like there were more benefits to the scheme than there actually were, and some of them were contradictory.

Among these, said principal planning officer Matthew Williams, was the claims of increasing the provision of PBSA for increasing student numbers, which conflicted with removing HMOs from use.

He said: "It's not a given... that if this scheme were to go ahead that the current stock of HMOs would reduce, notably by the number put forward by the appellants. And if they were... that's conflicting with trying to meet and identified demand."

Sarah Jones, director of research at Empiric Student Property, the company behind the Ocean Bowl scheme, said: "That would suggest that you think the HMOs in the centre of Falmouth were needed to accommodate students for the longer term."

And Hollie Nicholls, of planning consultants Laurence Associates, representing the developers, said she didn't feel the council gives enough weight, in planning terms, in its current site allocation DPD - which sets out land use for the next 13 years - to the increase in student numbers created by raising the cap on the Penryn Campus.

But Mr Holman said the council doesn't give "any weight" to the freeing up of HMOs, and instead the policy is looking at expansion using PBSA.

He said: "They're there, we can't insist they go away. We can't insist they go back to local housing."

He added that while the council needs PBSA "it needs to be a planned approach," led by the council and not by developers.

He continued: "We give limited weight to the provision of student accommodation on this site, because it's in the wrong place," adding "it doesn't fit with council strategy."

The planning inspector chairing the meeting asked Mr Holman about a "pressing need" for PBSA in Falmouth, at which the crowd all shouted: "No." Mr Holman replied that there was a need near to the Penryn Campus, and closer to Wood Lane.

Falmouth town councillor John Spargo said the different rents meant the development would be unlikely to tempt students out of HMOs, which cost on average around £90 per week, compared to £155 at The Sidings in Penryn or £166 at Maritime Studios, also run by Empiric.

He also said the economic benefits suggested by the development would happen "whatever the development," but Ms Nicholls said the benefits came from providing PBSA and supporting the university "which is a significant benefit to the county as a whole."

Mr Holman also told the meeting that there was more purpose built accommodation already being planned and built on the campus and at Packsaddle in Penryn, although Ms Nicholls questioned when - or if - these would both be delivered.

She added that the Penryn Campus had already exceeded its cap despite conditions requiring more PBSA to be built first, adding that the universities had yet to sign the agreement on the cap and the accommodation requirements.

And both Mr Williams and Mr Holman said that with several current PBSA appeals, if all were approved it would make the council's own plans to build a new 'creative village' at Treliever - funded by building PBSA at the site - more difficult.

Following the meeting, and several site visits, the inspector will rule on the appeal at a later date.