Students' union rallies to oppose college building plans for a third time

Gants Hill development plans

The first block would see ten office spaces created between Commercial House and Montrose House in Eastern Avenue. - Credit: KO Architects

Controversial plans to build on a Gants Hill college site are set to appear before councillors once again as opponents remain determined to stop the development.

The application, which is to go before Redbridge Council's planning committee today (March 22), proposes building two new blocks on the Mont Rose College site in Eastern Avenue.

One block would see ten office spaces created between Commercial House and Montrose House, while another - between 43-45 Clarence Avenue - is intended for 15 flats.

This scheme has faced criticism from the college’s student union, which argues the plans do not take the facility's 75 disabled students into account.

An original proposal to build 38 flats and two commercial units was withdrawn in 2019, while an application for 15 flats and 1,325 sqm of commercial space was rejected by the council's planning committee in November last year.

Three reasons were given for last year's refusal, including issues surrounding access to natural light and adequate parking, both of which the Mont Rose College Student Union argues would detrimentally impact disabled students.

Gants Hill development plans

The second block - between 43-45 Clarence Avenue - is intended for 15 flats of varying room sizes. - Credit: KO Architects

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In the lead up to that decision, a union spokesperson told the Recorder the proposed development "severely affects the disabled students who are attending the site for classes".

A few months on, the group argues this latest application, submitted on January 26, does not rectify the reasons for refusal.

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The union claims it only boasts one change of real substance - the addition of two extra disabled car parking spaces (bringing the total to four).

This does not go far enough, it says, claiming the new application does not address some 12 classrooms losing access to natural light.

A spokesperson has confirmed the union plans to launch judicial review proceedings if the group disagrees with today's decision.

Asked to explain how this new application addresses the reasons for refusal, a council spokesperson said: "Planning Officers have visited inside the college to understand the layout and the relationship with the proposed building.

"The assessment of the proposal, including revisions to the proposal and further supporting information, is set out in the committee report."

When approached by the Recorder, a spokesperson for managing agent ROK Planning outlined the following: 

1. Council officers have concluded that arrangements regarding windows do not affect the functionality of a tertiary education facility or the students attending these facilities, and that this is a fairly common feature for this type of facility. These arrangements were agreed contractually in writing with Montrose College prior to the granting of their lease in 2018.

2. The proposals include the introduction of two on site and up to two off site wheelchair parking spaces for college students, compared to the existing arrangement where planning permission does not allow any student parking on-site.

3. A new step free access (platform lift) will be installed at the rear of the college building, compared to the existing arrangement which requires mobility impaired students to undertake a 70 metre journey to reach the only step-free access on Eastern Avenue. The current arrangement also involves navigating a steep incline. In contrast, the proposed new step free access to the rear is just 22.8 metres to the lobby area.

The spokesperson continued: "The case officer has recommended the application be approved subject to the completion of the legal agreement.

"This demonstrates that the reasons for refusal from application 2670/20 have been addressed and that the proposal is acceptable in accordance with planning policy."

To watch the meeting from 7.15pm, visit this link.

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