THE University of Sussex will have to go back to the drawing board in its bid to increase its student intake.
Brighton and Hove city councillors have voted against £500 million plans for more student housing and academic buildings at the campus in Falmer.
The plans would have seen room for 1,408 more students on the East Slope and 1,122 on the West Slope, contributing to an expected 4,600 increase in students by 2018.
To avoid a student surge, the university has anticipated a maximum of 1,000 students a year.
But this, along with the size and breadth of the scheme, was too much for councillors, who felt the application could be broken down into smaller proposals.
There were four objections put forward by the planning committee.
The first was a negative impact on the amenities of the campus in terms of ecology through a loss of trees.
Under the plan 453 trees would have been removed, 12 on health and safety grounds. While 250 trees would have been retained and protected, it was revealed that this protection would not extend to tree preservation orders. The woodland areas bounding the site would have remained unaffected.
Secondly concerns were raised over the scale and height of the plans with fears it would create a “dense urban environment”, the committee stated.
This was despite the buildings in the application being arranged so the tallest buildings were at the bottom of each slope with the shortest at the top to minimise visual impact.
In addition, it was felt there was a failure to demonstrate there would be no negative impact on the city’s housing stock.
Caroline Lynch, of the Coombe Road Local Action Team, opposed the scheme because she felt it would detract from the affordable housing stock for residents. She told the committee: “Granting this planning application would be reckless of the council.”
Labour councillor Les Hamilton remarked that student houses, if lived in by families, could yield an extra £4 to £5 million in council tax.
Finally, councillors felt the plan did not respect the composition of the campus as envisaged by Sir Basil Spence originally – in the 1960s. The campus was intended for 800 students.
Allan Spencer, director of finance for the University of Sussex, said the university had already planted two hectares of trees and added that landscaping would have been taken “very seriously” in the development.
Afterwards he said the university would think about its next move.
A University of Sussex spokesman said: “We’re disappointed but we have a lot of options open to us, including appeal. It’s too early to say which of these we’ll choose.
“This does not affect our – targets for student recruitment.”