University of Reading to appeal against St. Patrick’s Hall planning decision01 August 2018
The University of Reading will appeal against the decision by the Planning Committee of Reading Borough Council in February to reject an application to extend and upgrade its student accommodation at St. Patrick's Hall.
The proposed multi-million pound re-development of St. Patrick's Hall, which was recommended for approval by the Council's planning officer, responded to demand for high-quality student accommodation located on or near Whiteknights campus.
Over the last four years, the University has seen the waiting list for first year students wanting rooms in halls grow from approximately 300 to more than 750, meaning that large numbers of students arriving at university for the first time are placed into temporary hotel accommodation or forced into permanent private rentals. In addition, more than 900 students who wish to return to halls after their first year are refused a room. Overall, the University is unable to accommodate around a third of the students requesting a room in halls each year.
The existing St. Patrick's Hall, located on Northcourt Avenue, no longer reflects the needs and expectations of students attending a world-class institution. The plans would bring the hall in line with the University's other campus halls of residence, which have undergone major upgrades in recent years. The quality and environmental performance of the hall would be improved, along with the transformation of facilities for future students, in a space that is currently underutilised. The application saw 836 new bedrooms being proposed, in addition to the 116 rooms retained within Pearson's Court - giving a net increase of 654 bedrooms on the existing site.
Following the local listing of Pearson's Court in October 2016, the University withdrew the original application to redevelop St Patrick's Hall. Working with the local council, heritage consultants and leading student accommodation architects, the University developed an alternative scheme that retains Pearson's Court and complements the heritage building in the remainder of the site. The new scheme also took on board comments from neighbouring residents with regards to privacy, reducing noise impact, the number of trees within the development and the proximity of buildings to residential housing. Furthermore, the University committed to creating a 24-hour security team based on site.
Further amendments were made to the updated plans in January 2018 in response to concerns raised by neighbouring residents. The sixth storey was removed from the two accommodation buildings at the centre of the site and the townhouse at the southern boundary closest to Northcourt Avenue reduced to two storeys. The result of these changes was a total loss of 48 rooms.
Professor Robert Van de Noort, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Reading, said:
"Development of first-class accommodation is urgently needed if we are to continue attracting students from the UK and abroad to study in Reading.
"The redevelopment of St Patrick's Hall would help the University to house the majority of first year students in halls. This would help us to manage student behaviour and offer a supportive environment for students, many of whom will be leaving home for the first time. In addition, the extra rooms in halls would help to relieve pressure on private rented housing in the local area.
"Given these pressures and the need to manage impacts on our neighbours, we believe we have no other option but to pursue an appeal against the decision of Reading Borough Council's Planning Committee to turn down the planning application to redevelop St. Patrick's Hall.
"We are aware that residents neighbouring St Patrick's Hall have raised concerns about the scheme and we have made significant changes to address those concerns. We have also introduced a University Street Support Team, which sees highly skilled security wardens patrolling streets around the University campus, including Northcourt Avenue, regularly throughout the week. The team provides support to students and residents and has already seen a reduction in noise impact.
"We firmly believe that the latest proposal for St Patrick's Hall is the best design for the space, for both students and local residents alike."