Sussex University’s management has finally secured planning permission to launch its ambitious campus ‘masterplan’.
University management, winning its appeal against the Brighton & Hove Council’s decision last December to reject the planning bid, will now be able to facilitate their plan to expand student numbers by a third to 18,000 by building on 60,000 square feet of the unspoiled South Downs to create more teaching space and 4,000 student rooms.
Current plans also include an extension to the Sussex library, a new sports centre and a new “state-of-the-art science block”.
Some Brighton residents have spoken out opposing the U-turn, claiming the original reasons for rejecting the plan – namely fears that the expansion would foster a “dense urban environment” jarring with the as well as filling up the city’s housing stock at the detriment of locals and families.
Planning Inspector Ken Barton concluded in his report, which was published last Thursday, acknowledged a “few slight disbenefits” of the university’s masterplan scheme but insisted that these would be “far outweighed” by the economic benefits it would generate.
John Duffy, University of Sussex registrar, believes that the ‘masterplan’ will pump £500 million into the local economy while maintaining the “architectural heritage” of the campus, which was masterminded by Sir Basil Spence in 1959.
“The careful development of our Falmer campus will allow us to provide a better education and experience for our students, whilst delivering substantial investment and more jobs in Sussex and the wider region,” he said.
Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, agreed with the decision, stating in his Argus column that Sussex “needs to expand to keep up with other leading universities.”
However, Caroline Lynch, of the Coombe Road Local Action Team, has accused Sussex management of not consulting local residents.
Meanwhile, there remain further question marks over whether the local rail and road links will be able to cope with the extent of the increase in student numbers.
In February earlier this year, the Students’ Union scrutinised Sussex management for not “seriously listening to the views and concerns of students and staff”.
Michael Segalov, the Union’s elected Communications Officer until last month, commented at the time: “The Masterplan has still not been approved by the local authorities, and to a great extent it’s not been approved by students and staff at Sussex.”
Segalov, after finding out through a freedom-of-information request that £264,000 had been spent on legal and architects fees, added: “The Masterplan has still not been approved by the local authorities, and to a great extent it’s not been approved by students and staff at Sussex.
“Residents of Brighton will be very disappointed at this decision and our local democratic rights have been ignored by the University of Sussex by railroading this application through against our wishes,” she said.
A Sussex spokesperson told The Argus that plans are at an “early” stage, but The Badger – which has approached the university for further comment – understands the project will take around a decade to complete..
The Badger will feature an extended report on the Sussex campus expansion plan in September’s Freshers’ Edition released on Saturday, September 12, and available on the website on Monday, September 14.