Rusham Park student village
Introduction / summary
The university purchased the Procter & Gamble Research Facility in 2016. Procter & Gamble currently lease and occupy the site, although they are scheduled to vacate by 2021. The university has considered its options and now wishes to proceed with an alternative-use redevelopment strategy for this major developed site in the Green Belt.
Since the grant of outline planning permission for the main campus in April 2015, the pressure placed upon the academic estate as the result of slight changes in course development, projections and external factors beyond the direct control of the university, have influenced the ability to deliver student accommodation across its main campus. The university maintains the underlying Estate Plan objective of consolidating student accommodation on or around its main campus.
In this context, the Kingswood Halls have served Royal Holloway well over many years, but there is an aspiration to improve the student experience so that students are less isolated from the campus. As such, the university intends to dispose of this site to enable redevelopment of this area for alternative uses.
In relation to the University of London Book Depository building at Spring Rise, it is no longer the intention to develop this site for student accommodation as per the Estate Plan, but potentially to deliver an academic and study space better suited to the needs of students.
Royal Holloway is acutely aware of the strength of local feeling in the Englefield Green and in particular, the effects of increasing student takeup of houses in multiple occupation within established residential areas. This was, in part, the underlying justification for the scale and mix of student accommodation floor space as set out in the Estate Plan.
The university therefore considers that it would be more appropriate to relocate those increases in student accommodation proposed in Highfield Court and Penrose Court to Rusham Park, thereby enabling areas abutting the residential areas of Englefield Green to be redeveloped for academic use over time. Together with the sale of Kingswood Halls, this would result in a reduction of around 1,400 student study bedrooms when compared with the end state of the 2015 Estate Plan.
The intent is to seek outline planning permission to redevelop the Rusham Park site as a new student village in the period after the vacation of Procter & Gamble in 2021.
A multi-disciplinary team of consultants have completed a series of site surveys and investigations covering issues such as drainage, highways, ecology, trees and visual impact. Their studies and assessments have helped to shape an Estate Plan for this site based around a Student Village. The intention is to deliver purpose built student accommodation in two phases, working with a development partner (yet to be appointed). It is proposed to bring forward around 1,400 bedrooms and complementary supporting uses to serve students’ needs at Rusham Park in Phase 1 starts from the west of the site and moves eastward. A subsequent Phase 2 offers potential of up to 600 student bedrooms and an modest expansion of supporting uses within the central catering and social hub. In total, the technical and design assessments are based upon a future student population of up to 2,000 people. The university will be looking to repurpose those sites identified in the 2015 Estate Plan for student accommodation for alternative, academic uses.
The intent is to provide supporting amenity and catering facilities within the village, which would also be served by a university shuttle bus running along Whitehall Lane in Egham and through the main campus via the link road mentioned earlier.
Relevance to the Estate Plan
The Rusham Park site was not included within the Estate Plan in 2015 as it was not owned by the university at the time.
Notwithstanding this, the purchase of the site in 2016 offered a unique opportunity to extend the university’s estate to add resilience to its long-term plans in Egham. After due consideration, it is felt that the site presents a clear opportunity to consolidate student accommodation on the campus.
The latest iteration of the Estate Plan for this site is similar to the September concept. Recent changes include the enlarging and relocation of the proposed Energy Centre to a site adjacent to the Multi-Storey Car Park, and the relocation of the pedestrian bridge to a position adjacent to the level crossing. This provides both the opportunity to deliver a low or potentially zero carbon Energy Strategy, and a more direct connection towards the main campus. A Shuttle Bus hub and stops are provided within the centre of the site.
These two changes have resulted in a re-alignment and expansion of the central catering and social hub, and accommodation over, the creation of an entrance plaza into the site, and a stronger pedestrian heart to the Village. The accommodation block lost as a result of the Energy Centre relocation has been incorporated into the central hub building.
Technical and design assessments are in the process of being finalised.
The July, September and November 2019 exhibition boards show a progression of the university’s thinking in relation to the redevelopment of the Rusham Park site. Feedback received from the July and September consultation has been fed back to the design team. A description of the key changes are set out above. The November exhibition boards can be accessed here.
Planning application / reserved matters submission
The university wishes to secure an outline planning permission for the principle of redeveloping the site as a student village. This will include student study bedrooms in a range of cluster flats and studios. The intention is to provide a choice of accommodation, which will be supported by catering, small convenience concessions, laundry, welfare and recreation facilities for those living on site.
The outline planning application was submitted to Runnymede Borough Council, as the Local Planning Authority on 10 January 2020. The application was registered on 29 January. A link to the Council’s website, where the complete suite of planning application documents can be viewed is set out below.
Link with other Estate projects and plans
The Rusham Park student village is considered to be a natural extension of the campus. It provides an opportunity to create an attractive sense of place for students wishing to live on campus. Connectivity between the Rusham Park site and the main campus requires one to cross the existing railway line. Two options, working in unison are being investigated: a new pedestrian footbridge which will enable safe passage over the railway line, and enhancements to the existing level crossing at the bottom of Prune Hill. Preliminary discussions with Network Rail have confirmed that it is their intention to improve the safety barrier in this location by 2024. The university will work with Network Rail to design and deliver an appropriate solution.
The existing car park within the Rusham Park site will be retained under current (emerging) proposals, though this car park will not be available for those students who will live on site. While the total number of car parking spaces on site will reduce, as will the daily traffic movements to and from the site when compared with the Procter & Gamble peak use of the site, the need to improve the connection with the main campus is evident.
Prior to the purchase of the Rusham Park site, the 2015 Estate Plan included reference to a southern link road to secure a restricted vehicular connection between the Runnymede Halls car park and the sports centre in the south of the campus. As a controlled access route, this will avoid the need for Royal Holloway service, maintenance and delivery vehicles to use the external road network (A30, Bakeham Lane and Prune Hill) to access the sports centre. Controlled access will prevent rat-running by car drivers. The project will also enable any future Royal Holloway shuttle bus service to access the sports centre (and beyond, such as the Rusham Park student village) from its internal road network. The link road will therefore reduce total distance travelled, reduce overall emissions and remove vehicles from the road network. The alignment of the route has been informed by a detailed tree survey to minimise their loss.
See references above to the following 2015 Estate Plan projects which are now unlikely to proceed and which therefore underpin the rationale of relocating student accommodation which was proposed in these areas to the Rusham Park site:
- The University of London Road Book Depository
- Highfield and Penrose Student Accommodation (intensification)