Introduction / summary
To support the research endeavour of the Biological Sciences department, the university wishes to expand its existing glasshouse capability on land north of the A30 off Chestnut Drive. To enable the extension of the glasshouses to be constructed, an existing biosciences polytunnel is proposed to be relocated within the site.
The site is currently occupied by two existing glasshouses, back up spaces for storage, plantroom enclosures and a polytunnel. These were granted reserved matters approval in June 2015. The site is connected to Chestnuts Drive to the west via an internal vehicular access road which was also delivered as part of the 2015 programme of works. The investment in this project is linked to the university’s wish to progress with the comprehensive refurbishment and extension of the adjacent Chestnuts to the west. This building has been vacant for a number of years and will be repurposed to accommodate Health Sciences (of which Biological Sciences is a part).
The scope of the project will include a new lit footpath connecting Chestnuts (an imposing previously student accommodation building constructed in the Victorian era and which lies vacant and boarded) in the west to Sutherland House to the east. The path will be integrated into detailed landscaping proposals relating to the open space performance theatre which secured full planning permission in 2020.
The development site is in the northern part of the campus, north of A30, Egham Hill. The additional glasshouse is to be sited immediately adjacent the existing glasshouses: the original intent was that a third glasshouse would be erected, and a base was constructed accordingly. The third bay is currently occupied by an existing polytunnel which is to be relocated to the southwest of the glasshouses.
To the north the site abuts a landscaped area with several mature trees, linking Sutherland House (located to the east) and the university’s Arboretum. To the north-west corner and west of the site are the rear gardens of dwellings within Chestnut Drive. These are separated from the site by a brick wall and fencing. The land gradually lowers in height to the south and east towards Egham Hill.
Relevance to the Estate Plan
Outline planning permission was granted in April 2015 for the university’s Masterplan for development up to 2031 (Ref.: RU.14/0099). The permission included the demolition of selected existing buildings and construction of an additional 55,000 sqm (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.
The Estate Plan identifies the site proposed for the additional glasshouse and relocated polytunnel as Plot B03 and 07. The schedule of development identified the site as having the potential to provide a new 2-storey, 600m2 floorspace building with associated service yard to serve as the relocated Campus Services compound (B03) with an 88-space car park immediately to the south.
A reserved matters submission was approved in June 2015 (planning reference RU.15/0686) in line to the 2015 outline permission in respect of details of layout, landscaping, appearance and scale for Biological Sciences glasshouses, a polytunnel and associated plant rooms, together with a new internal service road on the proposed development site.
While the 2015 proposal represented a change from the type of development identified on the illustrative campus estate plan, the glasshouses were required to replace a number of glasshouses used for research purposes by the Biological Sciences Department and which were previously located on land east of Harvest Road. This area has since been developed for student accommodation.
Notably, the planning officer’s report to committee for the 2015 glasshouses reserved matters submission noted that “the proposed glasshouses would be single storey and much smaller than the building originally suggested under the [estate] plan and would not include the extent of hardstanding (in the form of a car park adjacent Chestnut Drive) as previously illustrated. The development of this part of the site is considered to be consistent with the outline planning application which only included indicative locations of future buildings – the exact locations of buildings was reserved to be considered during the course of the implementation of the [estate] plan.”
While the development proposals are still being progressed, the additional glasshouse will be procured from the manufacturer of the existing glasshouses. The new one will match the existing and will comprise a multi pitched roof and toughened glass panels to the growing area, subdivided in to two separate growing chambers.
It is anticipated that additional space for housing plant, an office and breakout space will be constructed to the north of the glasshouse, adjacent to the back-up spaces supporting the existing glasshouses, and will be formed of composite insulated panels.
With respect to landscaping, the development proposals will include a new footpath link across the site, linking Chestnuts in the west, to Sutherland House in the east and the Arboretum to the north. The proposals will also provide additional soft landscaping and replacement tree planting.
In advance of a reserved matters application submission, public consultation will be arranged to allow members of the public to comment on the proposals. It is proposed that a consultation leaflet will be distributed to properties in the immediate vicinity, notably residential properties on Chestnut Drive to the west/north-west.
Planning application / reserved matters submission
It is intended that, as with the 2015 reserved matters approval for the existing glasshouses and polytunnel, the erection of the additional glasshouse will be progressed as a reserved matters submission in line with the 2015 outline approval.
It is currently anticipated that a reserved matters application submission for the glasshouse and polytunnel relocation development will be made to Runnymede Borough Council in October 2022.
The modest nature of the works is such that construction activity will be limited to approximately 4 months. Subject to securing the necessary consents, the university would anticipate works starting on site in the Spring of 2023.
Link with other Estate projects and plans
This project is located between the permitted but not yet implemented Open space performance theatre scheme (to the west) and Chestnuts refurbishment and extension to the east. At the time of writing (September 2022) a detailed planning application has been submitted to Runnymede Borough Council for the Chestnuts project and a determination is awaited shortly.