Ripley Springs environmental enhancements
Introduction / summary
The Ripley Springs environmental enhancement project is presently at an early stage, though will benefit from initial thoughts and ideas captured in the 2014 Estate Plan. The project essentially seeks to secure a number of objectives:
- Improved storm water reduction and management through an increase in the capacity of the existing pond in the heart of the area;
- Opening the wider area up as part of the university’s aspiration (and requirement) to improve public access as parts of its “Green Strategy and Visitor Management Strategy” and;
- To better manage and encourage a net gain in biodiversity in the area through a process of creating and improving wildlife habitats.
Ongoing investigations by the university, and discussions in relation to the scope of works linked to the Eastern Gateway Building immediately to the north, have resulted in the drainage (engineering) works being incorporated within the building design. The university is progressing with initial investigations relating to the environmental (landscape and ecological) enhancements and opening the area to visitors in a manner which does not prejudice the ability to bring forward storm water attenuation proposals in due course.
Relevance to the Estate Plan
The Estate Plan was updated in November 2017 to reflect all recently completed developments including the student accommodation north of the A30 (George Eliot Hall), the Boilerhouse, Beatrice Shilling Building and Emily Wilding Davison Building. This was sent to the council in an informative manner.
The Ripley Springs environmental enhancement project was included in the original 2014, and retained in the updated 2017 Estate Plan. Further detail relating to the Ripley Springs area was provided in February 2015 as part of the “Green Space and Visitor Management Strategy”. This document was prepared in response to discussions with the Environment Agency as a means to provide suitable alternative natural green space to offset any increased use of the Thames Basin Special Protection Area by students.
At this stage, there is no detailed design for the nature of the engineering (pond capacity) works or the proposals for public access through the area and the associated environmental enhancements. Consultants are due to be appointed to investigate the existing pond and weir (covered by undergrowth). This will influence the scale of the enhanced capacity and size of the pond and surrounding area. An ecologist and arboricultural (tree) consultant will also be appointed to work with a landscape architect to bring forward an integrated proposal.
Other than being included within the 2014 Estate Plan proposals, project specific engagement has not yet been undertaken. The proposal is not considered to result in detrimental impact to residential amenity. Opportunities to comment upon the emerging proposals were provided as part of the July 2019 engagement event and subsequent consultation period. Ongoing technical investigations relating to the detailed landscape and biodiversity enhancements are progressing and a further opportunity to comment upon these details is anticipated prior to submission in December 2019. This will coincide with the target submission date for the reserved matters submission relating to the Eastern Gateway Building.
Planning application / reserved matters submission
The Ripley Spring Environmental Enhancement project offers the opportunity to assist the surface water drainage strategy for the Eastern Gateway Building, which itself is at an early, client briefing, stage.
It is therefore possible that the engineering works relating to the Ripley Springs area will come forward as a twin-track planning submission: essentially in two concurrent submissions: one for the engineering and environmental works in isolation, with the same scheme being incorporated within the full planning application for the Eastern Gateway Building. In this way, should there be any potential delay in the application for the adjacent academic building, it may be possible to secure the necessary works under a separate planning process so that the Ripley Spring works can be brought forward in a timely fashion.
At the time of writing (September 2019) it is anticipated that a reserved matters submission will be made to Runnymede Borough Council in December 2019. It is possible that proposals for this area will be submitted concurrently as part of the Eastern Gateway Building. Runnymede Borough Council will set a target to determine the submission within eight weeks of receiving the reserved matters proposal, but if submitted as part of the Eastern Gateway Building application, this will take longer for the council to consider: up to 13 weeks.
It is currently too early in the planning and design process for a contractor to be appointed to this project.
Link with other Estate projects and plans
The “Green Space and Visitor Management Strategy” 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 601st new student accommodation unit within the main campus south of the A30.
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 – such as the Eastern Gateway Building), the university is looking to bring forward the project early and in advance of any new student accommodation units in the southern area of the campus.
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If you have any comments in relation to the emerging project, please complete the following survey.
The university has agreed to extend the period by which online responses can be submitted. The survey will remain open until midnight on the 13th October. If you have supplied comments, you do not need to complete the form again. The link provided will take you to a copy of the September consultation questions. This link is provided as we understand certain individuals experienced difficulties in submitting comments during September.
If you wish to make additional comments on any development project being promoted by the university, please email these to email@example.com