A £200 million scheme to build almost 2,000 student rooms on the Sussex University campus at Falmer has been granted planning permission.
The four-year scheme involves demolishing existing buildings and will result in double the number of student rooms on the West Slope site.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposal at a “virtual” meeting this afternoon (Wednesday 20 May).
The university plans to build 1,899 rooms in a mix of “cluster flats”, townhouses and family apartments to replace the existing 852 rooms which will be demolished.
The current Park Village, Lancaster, York, Kulukundis and Kent House buildings are expected to make way for 23 new buildings ranging from one to six storeys high.
A cylindrical landmark building, the Pavilion Library, is also planned for the site.
About three quarters of the rooms would be “en suite” rooms in “cluster flats” of six to eight rooms, with a communal kitchen, dining area and space to relax.
Almost a quarter of the rooms would be in 12 to 13-bedroom townhouses with shared bathrooms and communal areas.
A further 20 two-bedroom family flats are proposed.
The plans also include a laundry, supermarket, study space and store as well as a health and wellbeing centre for a doctor’s surgery, dentist and counselling services.
Work had been expected to start this summer but had been put back towards the end of the year.
Sussex University finance director Allan Spencer said that the university was in weekly contact with its contractor Balfour Beatty.
The construction company will raise the money to finance the scheme which it will build and then run – as with the recently modernised student housing on the East Slope.
The Planning Committee questioned whether there would be enough bicycle parking spaces for students, with Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty urging the university to be “aspirational”.
Councillor Mac Cafferty also said that the university’s master plan for the site meant the end of architect Sir Basil Spence’s original vision.
Councillors were concerned that just 12 accessible parking spaces were included in the plans.
They said that when they asked for this type of parking for student flats off campus, they were often told that students with disabilities tended to live on campus.
Labour councillor Daniel Yates asked whether the scheme included enough family flats and said: “I do have some concerns about the family units and would appreciate a condition that they are made available to students.”
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that, after putting four children through university herself, she welcomed more halls of residence and hoped that they would be affordable.
Councillor Theobald said: “Sussex University used to be in a lovely sylvan setting with plenty of green space, trees and the famous Basil Spence buildings.
“Now it looks more like a built-up town. Students these days want to have good accommodation, especially foreign students who bring money into the university.
“It won’t look the same. I’m not keen on so many six-storey blocks and the loss of mature trees. But I know we need to keep up with the times.”
Mr Spencer said that it was in the university’s interest for the buildings to be occupied and he expected rents to be similar to those charged for the new East Slope bedsits.
He added: “This scheme has garnered attention because we are removing the worst-quality accommodation from our campus.
“Those rooms are a lot cheaper. The rooms going up are the ones we have the highest demand for among our students – the en suite accommodation.”
Sussex University chief operating officer Tim Westlake said: “This is an important project for the university and our main contractor Balfour Beatty so we’re very pleased with this decision.
“We want to ensure we continue to develop our housing stock to provide high-quality modern homes for our students.
“Redeveloping the West Slope residences will provide up to 1,900 bedrooms – an increase of about 1,000 extra rooms.
“Following on from the East Slope residential development, which is due for completion by 2021, this further investment in our campus accommodation means that we will add to the range of student housing on campus.”
About 20 per cent of Sussex students have home addresses within commuting distance of the Falmer campus, the university said, and did not require rooms on campus.