Sussex University has submitted an appeal today (Friday 12 December) against a decision by councillors to throw out plans to modernise its Falmer campus.
Student numbers are expected to grow at Sussex from 13,000 to 18,000 over the next four years after the “university cap” – the government-imposed limit on student numbers – is lifted from next year.
The university proposed building just over 4,000 student bedsits – or study bedrooms – on its campus to help accommodate the rise in numbers.
Some of these would be built in place of car parks and almost 1,500 existing bedsits, which would be demolished.
The plans also involved building 21st century academic and research facilities, in some cases replacing 1960s buildings which have reached the end of their useful life.
Sussex University described its masterplan as a £500 million investment in the local economy.
The proposals were drawn up to protect the listed buildings designed by the university’s original architect Sir Basil Spence and preserve the downland environment, including the tree line.
But members of the Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee threw out the plans in June.
They said that the scale and height of the proposed buildings would create too dense a development and be at the expense of too many trees. The university is planting hundreds of trees to compensate for the losses.
The Planning Committee also said: “The application fails to demonstrate that it would not result in a negative impact on the city’s existing housing stock as a result of the proposed increase in student numbers.”
And it added: “The proposed development will overwhelm the composition and setting of the campus and its listed buildings as envisaged by Sir Basil Spence.”
The appeal has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, an independent government agency or quango that deals with all planning appeals.
It is likely to hold public hearings in spring 2015 and a decision is expected by summer 2015.
If the Planning Inspectorate grants permission for the masterplan, the university will then need to make detailed applications to the council for different buildings before work can start.
Earlier this week Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby met representatives from Sussex University to discuss the plans.
The Conservative MP said afterwards: “The proposals would enable the university to house more students on campus.
“This is something I support as it is important to ease the pressure on family homes in areas like Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.
“I have been consistent that as well as looking at brownfield sites and city centre sites, one of the ways the city council should find more housing in the city is by building more student housing on campus. This would help safeguard precious green spaces on the fringes of the city.
“I am very supportive of the university, which plays an incredibly important role in our local economy, and am backing these plans which will help the university maintain its place as one of the top 1 per cent of universities in the world.”
• Sussex University John Duffy discusses the masterplan and why the university is growing on The Vote on Latest TV next week.
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