Rusham Park student village
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 changes in course development, student projections and external factors beyond the direct control of the university has influenced the ability to meet student accommodation demands. The university maintains the underlying Estate Plan objective of consolidating student accommodation on or around its main campus.
In this context, the university purchased the Procter & Gamble research facility in 2017. Prior to the vacation of the site in 2021, the university sought planning permission to redevelop the site as a new student village – see below.
As set out in the 2015 Estate Plan, the university considered it would be more appropriate to relocate the planned increases in student accommodation at Highfield Court and Penrose Court to Rusham Park. This would enable, in time, a large area of the campus abutting the residential areas of Englefield Green to be redeveloped for academic use.
The Rusham Park site is located to the south-east of the main campus, separated by the railway line. The site is accessed from Whitehall Lane in the south (close to the level crossing) and east.
Outline planning permission: February 2022
Outline planning permission was secured from Runnymede Borough Council in February 2022 for the principle of redeveloping the Rusham Park site as a new student village. Construction can only begin once detailed design submissions have been approved by the council and pre-commencement conditions have been discharged. The outline permission required detailed proposals to comply with certain key principles. These included the buildings being located within identified development zones and within maximum height thresholds.
The outline planning approval is for:
“The demolition of existing buildings and erection of purpose-built student accommodation (up to 1,400 study bedrooms), energy centre and ancillary uses, including a pedestrian footbridge and associated landscaping – (“a student village”) on land at Rusham Park, Whitehall Lane, Egham, Surrey.”
The general arrangement plan relating to the outline planning application is presented below for information.
In order for a planning application of this nature to be approved in the Green Belt, the council accepted that ‘very special circumstances’ existed to justify the scheme. Of particular note, the council recognised the university as a world class education facility. The relevant Planning Committee Report stated that, “The 2030 Local Plan recognises the university as a strength within the borough. The development will ensure the long-term retention and prosperity of the university within the borough with increased opportunities for education. The proceeds from the development would also be reinvested into an established local education provider.” The council considered that this weighed significantly in favour of the scheme.
Other considerations weighing in significant favour in terms of the special circumstances included:
- The status of the university as an important strategic employer in the borough.
- The package of sustainable transport measures and accessibility improvements including a new footbridge to aid the passage of students and other people living and working local to the site across the railway line, as well as use of the existing car park on the site by the university to supplement its parking provision.
- Agreement by the university to make a financial contribution towards a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in Egham and/or Englefield Green.
- The landscaping and biodiversity enhancements proposed at Rusham Park to enhance the relationship of the site’s boundaries within the Green Belt setting.
There was overriding support for the proposals from members of the planning committee, with a number of councillors voicing their support and recognising that the university has listened to feedback from the local community.
The outline planning application was approved subject to conditions along with a S106 agreement which makes provision for the transport infrastructure proposed, financial contributions to local parking initiatives, and on-campus and supplemental financial contributions towards mitigation measures for the protection and management of Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area.