Sussex University has welcomed the approval given for 2,100 new student homes at its Falmer campus along with a new student union building.
Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby also praised the decision – made this afternoon (Wednesday 3 August) by Brighton and Hove City Council – as well as the university’s contribution the local economy.
The university’s registrar John Duffy said: “This is an important project for the university so we’re very pleased with this outcome.
“This means that we will now be able to house more students in university-managed accommodation, which will take away some of the pressure of housing in the city.”
Mr Kirby, recently promoted to the ministerial post of Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: “The university plays a very important role in our local economy, both directly and indirectly and is looking to increase student numbers.
“It is right that it be able to expand to enable it to keep up with other leading universities and maintain its reputation as a centre of research excellence.
“I am delighted to hear today’s news as it means that the university will be able to offer more students the opportunity to live on campus.
“I am always aware that any new development needs to be appropriate and so I have always argued that the accommodation needed to support these extra students should be built on the campus to reduce pressure on family homes in the city, particularly in areas such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.”
The new buildings, approved unanimously by the council’s Planning Committee, will replace the existing East Slope student accommodation, which dates from the 1970s and currently houses 600 students.
Mr Duffy said: “We know that many of our former and current students have a great affection for East Slope and our aim is to provide modern affordable accommodation that recreates the fantastic social environment.
“In considering the redevelopment options, we invited students to tell us what sort of facilities they would like to have in their accommodation and these results were fed into the design and planning process.”
The new bedrooms are the first stage of a £500 million programme of investment to modernise and improve the university’s campus.
Last year the university was granted outline consent for its campus masterplan, which includes the majority of this new student accommodation.
Work on the site will be carried out by a phased approach and is expected to begin next January. The first phase will be ready around September or October 2018, with all work completed by 2020.
The university has been working in collaboration with Historic England, Brighton and Hove City Council and other local bodies to ensure that the campus’ architectural legacy is not compromised.
Sir Basil Spence, the original architect of the university, created a number of highly distinctive and cherished signature buildings. These include Falmer House, the Meeting House and the newly refurbished Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, formerly the Gardner Arts Centre.
Mr Duffy said: “We will be renewing the original Spence vision with the creation of new and equally distinctive signature buildings, as well as better pathways and movement through the campus, sustaining lines of sight to the South Downs. The choice of building materials will also echo those favoured by Spence.”
Last year Balfour Beatty were appointed as the approved bidder for the development and operation of the new accommodation.
Mr Duffy said: “This was a highly competitive tender process, in which we received several excellent bids.
“Balfour Beatty demonstrated a strong understanding of our desire to develop high-quality accommodation while maintaining the character of the natural landscape of Sussex within the setting of the South Downs National Park.”
“They were able to address our critical requirements as well as having extensive experience in delivering large-scale projects of this nature.”