New Plans for former St Mary's Hospital Site

Oct 20, 2017

Planning Group representatives recently attended a presentation by Empiric, the new owners of this site, and were shown the Company's new plans for accommodation for 150+ students.

Empiric proposes to retain and sensitively convert the old hospital building, which, although not particularly attractive, is an historic local landmark. The conservatory at the end of the building will be demolished and replaced by a modern extension with 'green wall' cladding. Many would disapprove of the modern design and consider that a copy of the existing building might be more appropriate. Concerns were expressed that green walls are difficult and expensive to maintain and unfortunately many fail and become eyesores.

It is planned to build townhouses along Upper Byron Place, which looked quite attractive and are in context. The old lodge will be retained as a reception area and gateway to the site.

CHIS broadly welcomes the above aspects of the new plans but the horror for us is the so-called 'pavilion' planned for the former consultants' car park. It has none of the attributes of an actual pavilion but is, rather, an uninspiring, tall (10m high), modern block, designed to hold as many students as possible without respecting in any way its context and prominent position. Local residents rightly fear that this building would be dangerously close to the retaining wall, and to their houses, resulting in privacy, overshadowing and stability issues.

We were dismayed to learn that these developers are not planning to provide any parking facilities whatsoever for the 150+ students, many of them graduate students with families, who will occupy these units. It is well known locally that a significant number of students manage to acquire residents' or visitors' parking permits despite (usually unenforceable) clauses in tenancy agreements prohibiting it. Providers of student accommodation and BCC planners urgently need to recognise this fact and respect and prioritise the needs of residents living in Victorian and Georgian properties lacking off-street parking.

We very much hope that the concerns and wishes forcibly expressed by local residents at at this presentation, and the prominence of this site in the conservation area will be taken into account by Empiric in the plans they ultimately submit to BCC.

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