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.


Figure 1: Location Plan (site shown in red)

Figure 1: Location Plan (site shown in red)

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.

Figure 2: General arrangement plan relating to the outline planning application (September 2020)

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.

Reserved Matters submission (April 2022: Ref RU.22/0394)

Architectural details relating to the appearance of the buildings and associated landscaping were submitted by the university’s development partner, Balfour Beatty Investments, in April 2022.  The general arrangement plan relating to the detailed submission is presented for information below:

Figure 3: General arrangement plan relating to the detailed reserved matters submission (April 2020)

The detailed submission includes new amenity and catering facilities within the village, which would also be served by a university shuttle bus. This will run along Whitehall Lane in Egham and through the main campus via the Southern Link Road (the subject of a separate full planning permission secured in 2021).

The reserved matters proposals were granted consent by the council on the 13th September 2022.

Rusham Park Phase 2

The original outline planning application submitted in January 2020 comprised a student village of up to 2,000 student study bedrooms. In dialogue with the council, this was reduced to 1,400 bedrooms and replacement plans were submitted in September 2020. This reduced scheme was granted permission in February 2022 (see above).

A future Phase 2 offers potential to deliver an additional 600 student bedrooms and a modest expansion of supporting uses within the central catering and social hub.

In total, the technical and design assessments supporting the original January 2020 application were based upon a future student population of up to 2,000 people. Subject to appropriate updates, the university will draw upon the planning assessments and justification prepared in 2020 to support a future Phase 2 application.

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.

Figure 4: Site photo (image courtesy of JLL and taken from the Sales Particulars in 2017)



Consultation and engagement events were organised by the university in July, September and November 2019. Exhibition boards presented a progression of the university’s thinking in relation to the redevelopment of the Rusham Park site. Feedback received was provided to the design team and refinements made prior to the formal planning submission in January 2020. Further changes were made to reduce the scale of the application from 2,000 beds to 1,400 beds in September 2020.


The outline planning application was resolved to be approved by Runnymede Borough Council in December 2020. Detailed obligations which needed to be aligned with the proposals were agreed during 2021 and were finalised ahead of the issue of the decision notice on 14 February 2022.

The council are currently (September 2022) considering the detailed reserved matters submissions and a decision is expected shortly. Subject to the need to discharge pre-commencement conditions, it is anticipated that construction will start on site in summer 2023.  It is envisaged that first occupation will be possible in the summer of 2026.

Link with other Estate projects and plans

The Rusham Park student village is 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 people to cross the existing railway line. A new pedestrian footbridge (the details of which will be submitted shortly) will enable safe passage over the railway line. The bridge will supplement the recent safety improvement works to the level crossing which were completed by Network Rail in 2021.

The existing Rusham Park decked car park will be retained by the university. Planning permission was secured in 2021 to allow the university to use the car park. The university intends to occupy the car park at the same time as the first students take occupation of the bedrooms within the student village.

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. The link road will remove university service, maintenance and delivery vehicles from the external road network (A30, Bakeham Lane and Prune Hill) thereby reducing total distance travelled and overall emissions when accessing the sports centre. Controlled access will prevent rat-running by car drivers. The road link will also enable a potential 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.

Detailed planning permission for the Southern Link Road was secured in December 2020. A contractor will be appointed during Spring 2023 to finalise the design and construct the road ahead of the occupation of the Rusham Park student village.

The following 2015 Estate Plan projects are now unlikely to proceed:

The University of London Road Book Depository

The Estate Plan of 2015 highlighted a redevelopment opportunity to demolish the Depository and rebuild as a large student accommodation scheme comprising approximately 8,900m2 (equivalent to around 330-350 study bedrooms. A combination of the development of the Rusham Park student village and a decision by the University of London to extend their lease results in the retention of the Depository for the foreseeable future.

Highfield and Penrose Student Accommodation (intensification)

The Estate Plan of 2015 highlighted a redevelopment opportunity to demolish and replace the Penrose student accommodation blocks with a scheme resulting in the net increase of c7,600m2 floor area or 270 study bedrooms. The purchase of the Rusham Park site in 2017 and subsequent progression of a new 1,400 bed student village has helped to meet short term student accommodation needs. Ahead of the first occupation of the Rusham Park student village, the university may wish to consider and progress alternative academic use of the site through a redevelopment project. A new build academic building or buildings on this site would need to be delivered within the net floor area thresholds imposed by the 2015 outline planning permission.

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