Many of you will have noticed that our planning application to develop the northern edge of our campus has generated a high level of interest. I am taking this opportunity to comment upon some of the issues raised by those that oppose this enabling development.
Improving our Sports Facilities
We are being told that we are planning to build a Sports Hall. This is not the case, we are not building a Sports Hall. Today we have submitted a separate planning application for an all-weather 3G pitch to replace one of the pitches to the South of the College. This facility will be for the use of the College as well as other schools on campus and community groups. We will use the opportunity that the installation of the 3G pitch provides to enhance the quality of the adjacent pitch. The upgrade to our sports facilities will be paid for from the receipt received from the land development. The top football pitch will not be affected by the new residential buildings.
Many of the respondents give the impression that the land surrounding the College is for public recreation and that the development will deprive them of its use. The College grounds are in fact private property although we have granted permissive access to local residents. However, this is retained at the discretion of the College, and there is no right of access onto this site. Some respondents assert that we would close access to the site from Surrenden Road. That is not the case and the College have recognised the value for local people and students to access the site here and so have prioritised its retention.
Impact on our Environment
Some respondents claim that the land we seek to develop is a nature reserve opened by the Local Authority. That is also not the case. Several Varndean College staff requested permission to allow a part of the land to return to its natural state. A request we were very happy to agree to and in pursuing this application, we were eager to identify what impact this might have. We have taken the utmost care to ensure that we comply with planning regulations.
We have undertaken a preliminary ecological appraisal to ensure any potential ecology impacts are fully understood, and have then commissioned a reptile survey to ensure there will be no impact on protected species. This survey has confirmed that there are no protected reptile species on the application site. We have identified an alternate location for the biodiversity area, which provides the opportunity to enhance and manage the biodiversity offer on site.
Some respondents imply that several Elm trees are at risk, we are having a report produced to ensure no detrimental impact on street trees. We have assessed the potential for archaeology and determined that the scheme will have no negative impact.
Many respondents raise the issue of road traffic, congestion and parking. We have commissioned a Transport Assessment to ensure that we are fully aware of the traffic generation impacts and can mitigate against these and we are providing off street parking (car and cycle) for each unit.
Meeting City Needs
Some respondents express regret at the loss of a view across the City and that building houses here doesn’t make sense as the houses will be unaffordable to most. We have engaged an architect who has designed a scheme of; maximum sensitivity to existing residents, setting it into the hill, of excellent design and sustainability credential and one that is policy compliant on affordable housing (30%).
Lastly some respondents have queried the morality of allowing a development that lines the pockets of property developers. The College has progressed this development to outline planning application in order to ensure that the any receipt is utilised in full to support the aspirations of the College and our students. There is no middle person taking their cut. This is an enabling application that will benefit the community at large.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.