Ripley Springs environmental enhancements

Introduction

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:

  1. Improved storm water reduction and management through an increase in the capacity of the existing pond in the heart of the area;
  2. 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;
  3. 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 strategy for this building being a combination of features within the building design supported by surface water discharge into the adjacent Ripley Springs Pond. The university has appointed engineering consultants to investigate the enhanced capacity off the existing pond generated by the clearing of this area and works to repair the headwall. These works are anticipated to be completed by the time the Eastern Gateway Building is completed. The university is progressing the ambition to carry out environmental (landscape and ecological) enhancements and opening the area to visitors in a manner which does not prejudice the ability to bring forward the surface/storm water attenuation proposals described above.

Location

Figure 1: Location plan of the Phase 1 works superimposed on the updated Estate Plan

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.

Appearance

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.

Figure 2: Extract from the Green Space and Visitor Management Strategy Feb 2015. Detailed designs will have regard to the fundamental principles set out within the Feb 2015 strategy

Consultation

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.

Planning application / reserved matters submission

The Ripley Spring Environmental Enhancement project offers the opportunity to assist the surface/storm water drainage strategy for the Eastern Gateway Building. The details of this building, and its drainage strategy, will be submitted as a reserved matters submission in January 2020.  The university wishes to maintain flexibility in securing the engineering works alongside wider environmental enhancements in this area. It is therefore possible that the engineering works relating to the Ripley Springs area will come forward separately, but at the same time as being incorporated within the reserved matters planning application for the Eastern Gateway Building. In this way, should there be any potential delay in the application for the Eastern Gateway 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 to potentially serve wider campus drainage objectives.

Timetable

At the time of writing (November 2019) the university are investigating works to repair the headwall of the Ripley Springs attenuation pond as part of a wider workstream to help inform a future campus / area wide drainage strategy. The manner in which the surface water run-off generated by the Eastern Gateway Building will be discharged into the Ripley Spring Pond will be set out in a reserved matters planning application, due to be submitted in March 2020.

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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