Ripley Springs environmental enhancements
The Ripley Springs environmental enhancement project is at an early stage. It will be brought forward in line with both the ideas and principles captured in the 2015 Estate Plan, the university’s Green Space and Visitor Management Plan (GSVMP) and a recent campus-wide landscape-led sustainable surface water drainage strategy.
The Ripley Springs project seeks to deliver a number of university aspirations:
- Improved storm water reduction and management through an increase in the capacity of the existing pond in the heart of the area as part of the university’s sustainable drainage strategy;
- Managing the wider area to improve public access in line with the Green Space and Visitor Management Strategy: an obligation imposed upon the university as part of agreement with Runnymede Borough Council linked to the delivery of projects across the campus and the Rusham Park student village;
- To better manage and encourage a net gain in biodiversity in the area through a process of creating and improving wildlife habitats. This is aligned with the Sustainability Strategy adopted by the university in July 2022.
- Enhancing the campus experience for students and staff as part of an initiative to improve the relationship between buildings and restorative (natural) environments.
Recent site works (summer 2022)
Recent (2022) works in the area to clear undergrowth and vegetation in the ponds and banks are aligned with the university’s strategic aims for this area but are largely under the banner of site management and not specifically part of delivering a defined final design solution.
The development of the western part of car park 4 immediately to the north (the site of the former Eastern Gateway Building), will be served by the Ripley Springs area in terms of surface water drainage. This will be supported by a combination of features within the building design.
Engineering consultants have investigated the enhanced capacity of the existing pond generated by the clearing of the Victorian ponds and works to repair a headwall. These works will be programmed to coincide with the redevelopment of the western part of car park 4.
The university is progressing the ambition to carry out environmental (landscape and ecological) enhancements and enhancing public access in relation to our obligations to progress its GSVMP separately and ahead of an adjacent development proposition on car park 4. Such works would need to be undertaken in a manner which does not prejudice the ability to bring forward the surface/storm water attenuation proposals.
At this stage, there are no detailed designs for the nature of the engineering (pond capacity) works or the proposals for public access and the associated environmental enhancements. The university has recently completed an ecology appraisal of the site. This will inform the detailed layout of the design proposals and ongoing management regimes in the area in due course.
The principles of the environmental enhancements were captured in the 2015 Estate Plan and successive updates of the GSVMP, the latest of which is dated 2022.
Planning application / reserved matters submission
The Ripley Springs environmental enhancement project offers the opportunity to assist the surface/storm water drainage strategy for any redevelopment proposition which may come forward on the adjacent western part of car park 4. The details of any such project, and its drainage strategy, will be submitted as a reserved matters submission at the appropriate time.
The university wishes to maintain flexibility in delivering potentially phased engineering works alongside wider environmental enhancements in this area. It is therefore possible that the engineering works relating to Ripley Springs will come forward separately (as a planning application) and ahead of any reserved matters planning submissions for the development of the adjacent car park. Such flexibility is required to secure the necessary works under a separate planning process so that the Ripley Springs works can be brought forward in a timely fashion to potentially serve wider campus drainage objectives.
The university is considering a phased programme of works linked to the obligations to deliver the Green Space and Visitor Management Plan objectives ahead of the first occupation of the Rusham Park student village in 2026.
Link with other Estate projects and plans
The Green Space and Visitor Management Plan referred above, requires certain environmental and improved pathways to be created throughout the undeveloped areas of the campus, Ripley Springs being just one of a number of areas which will see enhancements over time.
Each area is required to be brought forward in line with the phased delivery of new student accommodation within the campus. Works to the Arboretum to the north of the A30 have already been completed alongside the erection of the George Eliot Hall. The Ripley Springs area is required to be enhanced before the occupation of the first student study bedrooms in the Rusham Park student village.
Given the wider benefits that the Ripley Springs area offers in relation to improving the flow, storage and managed discharge of surface water in the northern part of the site (and the opportunity to create a sustainable urban drainage solution linked to the erection of new academic buildings in the Piggery Gate area) the university may wish to bring forward the engineering aspects of the project early and in advance of any new student accommodation units.