Chestnuts refurbishment and extension
Introduction / summary
To support the ongoing growth of the Department of Health Studies, the university is seeking the refurbishment and extension of Chestnuts (an imposing previously student accommodation building constructed in the Victorian era and which lies vacant and boarded) located to the north of the A30 and main campus.
Chestnuts is a late 19th Century two storey detached building located at the entrance of Chestnut Drive to the north of the A30 London Road. Currently vacant, the existing building is in a state of disrepair and neglect, although the handsome principal elevation has retained the attractive ornate brickwork and detailing typical of the Victorian era.
The project responds to both actual and projected growth in the student cohort for the department. Year 1 (2022) baseline numbers (30 post-graduate students and seven staff) are projected to increase to a cohort of undergraduate and post-graduate students of 156 and 20 staff by Year four (2025). The projected growth, while modest, is aligned with the Growth Strategy of the university and seeks to deliver purpose-built accommodation to serve the needs of the Department of Health Studies.
Previously in use as student accommodation, internal and external alterations are required to facilitate the repurposing of the building for academic use. A full planning application was submitted in August 2022 for the creation of two modest infill extensions, elevation treatment and five new rooflights. At the time of writing (September 2022) Runnymede Borough Council is considering the application and a decision is expected during October 2022.
Chestnuts fronts onto Chestnut Drive and is enclosed by a timber fence with an area of hardstanding used for parking located to the north. A small number of trees and area of grass extend down to the A30 with a small area of enclosed grass located to the rear of the building, enclosed by an existing hedge.
Relevance to the Estate Plan
Outline planning permission was granted in April 2015 for the university’s Estate Plan for development up to 2031 (Ref: RU.14/0099). The permission included the demolition of selected existing buildings and construction of an additional 55,000sqm (net) of academic and operational floor space alongside 71,128 sqm (net) student accommodation, alterations to Egham Hill to provide a new vehicular access, alterations to Highfield Road/Harvest Road/Egham Hill junctions to provide amended vehicular access, new car parks, sports facilities and associated hard and soft landscaping.
Chestnuts is presented as a new build opportunity within the 2015 Estate Plan, extending to cover the area of land to the south facing onto Egham Hill. Two buildings and a ‘link’ are shown on the illustrative plan, indicating a development capacity of c1,400m2.
The project accords with the parameters of the 2015 outline planning permission (in terms of floor area). As the proposal involves both the refurbishment and extension of a retained building, a full planning application, rather than a reserved matters submission, was submitted.
Notwithstanding the above, the retention and modest extension of the Chestnuts would not prejudice the ability to bring forward long term development proposals in accordance with the Estate Plan.
Plans and elevations submitted in support of the planning application demonstrate that the refurbishment and upgrade of the existing building will exhibit many key design and performance attributes. The proposal seeks to improve the overall appearance and character of the wider campus, bringing a disused building back into an appropriate and sympathetic use.
The property is set within a landscaped context, with mature trees and amenity grassland providing effective screening from the A30. Users of the building will therefore perceive a natural setting on the approach to and from the building.
The older, more characterful external facades will be retained, including the brickwork, window head and detailing. The later facades will be overclad and insulated to improve the energy efficiency of the building, helping to unite the building visually and make it read as a single faculty building.
As a minor application, there was no requirement for the university to undertake a public consultation exercise ahead of a formal submission.
At the time of writing (September 2022) the council is considering the proposal. A decision is expected within eight weeks of validation (or by 10 October 2022). However, the council can request an extension of time if required. The council has written to local households, statutory and non-statutory local consultee organisations inviting comments prior to a final decision being made.
Two letters of representation have been submitted by nearby residents – both expressing their broad support for the refurbishment of the currently neglected building.
Planning application / reserved matters submission
The outline planning permission of April 2015 established the principle, subject to appropriate details, the demolition of existing buildings and the erection of new academic and operational buildings up to a maximum net increase of 55,000m2 and up to 71,128m2 of student accommodation across the campus.
Whilst the building and proposed works represents a departure from the specific type of development shown on the illustrative Estate Plan, the retention, refurbishment and extension of a building with positive townscape attributes is considered to meet a number of planning policy and environmental sustainability objectives. For the reasons set out above, a full planning application was submitted in August 2022.
It is currently anticipated that full planning permission will be received by delegated decision on 10 October 2022. Subject to securing the appropriate consent, the university anticipates completing the works during 2023 for occupation in the Summer ahead of the 2023/24 academic year.
Link with other Estate projects and plans
(See “Relevance to the Estate Plan” above)
Open space performance theatre: located to the east of the site and proposed to be connected to Chestnuts via a new footway.
Glasshouses extension: located immediately to the east of Chestnuts with clear academic and operational links to Chestnuts.