New uni halls with 650 rooms to be built in Stratford despite concerns over ‘eyesore’ building

By Staff

An East London council has approved a new student accommodation block in Stratford despite dozens of objections from residents as well as a staff union at the university. The University of East London (UEL) was granted planning permission by Newham Council’s strategic development committee on Tuesday evening (February 20) so it could expand its Stratford campus and build uni halls for 650 students.

The plans also include new lecture rooms and learning areas with a focus on training students in health service roles and wider public sector roles including teachers and social workers. A representative from UEL told the committee the development, which will be built across 4,000 sqm, ‘will provide much needed space for the doctors and nurses that this city and country needs to train in’.

The development will deliver 623 single rooms complete with en-suites that will be split into flats while 27 studio flats will also be built on site, while 35 per cent will be ‘affordable’ student accommodation. Prior to last week’s meeting, a public consultation took place and saw 1,708 letters sent out to neighbouring properties informing locals about the plans.

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The plans received just five letters of support but received an overwhelming amount of objectors including a petition backed by 170 people and a letter signed on behalf of 19 addresses at Torrens Square, as well as 27 additional objections. Some residents were against the plans because they said the buildings would be too tall and an ‘eyesore’, and were worried that they would lose daylight and privacy.

Those in support said more student accommodation and teaching space for UEL was a good thing, as students wouldn’t have to commute long distances which would help the environment. Unison, the union at UEL had objected to the development as it will involve the bulldozing and redevelopment of two car parks, which the union said are used by a number of staff who drive to work.

Susan Parkin, from UEL’s Unison branch told the committee that staff who drive to work will have nowhere to park. Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Ms Parkin said: “…there is also comment that there are multiple modes of transport in and around Stratford, this may be so but parents who have to drop children off on the way cannot make use of this.

“They would have to leave home two hours earlier in order to make the journey by train or by bus.” UEL argued in planning documents that it had ‘extensively engaged’ with staff and said the campus was well served by public transport including Maryland which is on the Elizabeth Line and Stratford train station as well as a number of bus routes.

During the meeting, UEL said the development would deliver ‘numerous public benefits’ including 650 student accommodation rooms which it said would ease pressure on Newham’s private housing markets. Labour councillor, Susan Masters expressed concerns that only 35pc of the development would be ‘affordable’ student accommodation and called it a ‘terribly low proportion’.

However UEL said 35pc affordable homes policy doesn’t just relate to housing developments under the GLA [Greater London Authority], but also relates to the affordable requirements for student developments. A UEL representative said: “…it’s not quite the same policy that addresses both points but it just happens to be the same percentage requirements in order to meet the policy requirement, which [must be] 35pc to qualify for fast-track.”

Labour councillor, Rachel Tripp had concerns about the size of the development, and the impact this could have on residents. She said: “…the impact on the light and the impact on the overlooking on residents is really quite significant and not just noticeable but really has an enormous impact.”

A council officer responded, and said: “The harm here is outweighed by the quality of design, the public benefits of the scheme and the benefits of to the students and the university and the borough as well, it’s a balancing act between looking at both elements.” After more than two hours of hearing and deliberating the application, the strategic development committee decided to approve the plans with five councillors for it while one councillor abstained.

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