CHURCH leaders are warning the "studentification" of York neighbourhoods is ripping the heart out of communities.

Leaders of St Lawrence church on Lawrence Street have written to the council about the latest student housing plan for the street, saying the area is being damaged as more and more student homes spring up.

Rev Jane Nattrass, the priest in charge at St Lawrence's, has written on behalf of the Parochial Church Council saying: "We wish to record our concern that the proposal is for more student accommodation with absentee landlords.

"Further student developments have already been given planning consent in the area. Our concern is that a monoculture is being imposed on the area."

"Studentification" is having a detrimental effect on the area, their letter says, because students go home leaving homes empty for many weeks of the year; and because they stay in each place for only one year giving a "transient population".

The letter adds: "This is not conducive to community cohesion and is leaving permanent residents in isolation."

As reported last month, York-based developers S Harrison have drawn up a plan to convert the former Lawrence Street Working Men's Club (WMC) and the neighbouring Tam O’Shanter pub into a 115 bed student accommodation complex.

The site is close to the 600-bed student development being built on the former St Joseph’s Convent site, and will add to the 648-bed Student Castle development on the former Press site in Walmgate, the 220 student studio flats on the old Reg Vardy garage site in Lawrence Street; the established Boulevard student development in Hull Road, and the York St John University housing on Navigation Road.

The 18th Century WMC building was once the home of mental health care pioneer Samuel Tuke, and both the church council and heritage groups have welcomed moves to save the increasingly derelict structure.

The church's letter says they want to see the heritage and history of the Tuke family's home preserved; while Historic England said the Grade II listed building has "aesthetic and historical value". The plans to save the building should be approved, they add, with conditions attached on how historic features like the portico are restored.