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Application No: 04/04058/FUL - Comments on the planning proposal by the University of Sheffield : Student Village on Endcliffe and Ranmoor sites - with reference to the impact on Woodvale Road and part of Fulwood Road

We appreciate that the University needs to provide good quality, appropriate student accommodation if it is to continue to attract the best students in the future. The Endcliffe and Ranmoor sites have played an important role in the provision of student accommodation over last 30 years and it is well understood that they will continue to be an important resource. Our main concern as local residents is to ensure that the provision of new housing and associated facilities on these sites is planned in such a way that it does not lead to a rift with the surrounding community by causing an unnecessary deterioration in the quality of life. There are questions both about the appropriate density of students in a suburban residential area of a city and about the way in which any new built form interacts with the environment of what is designated as a conservation area, as well as how this interaction affects the quality of life of the long-term residents.

We are not going to comment in detail at this stage on the selected style of the proposed buildings. It should be noted, however, that we do consider it is questionable to have selected this particular industrialised built form for a conservation area - an historic residential area of the city, which among other things was designated as a Conservation Area to justify "- the planning authority in very strict exercise of its powers to prevent inappropriate development taking place." (Endcliffe Conservation Area designated by the City of Sheffield, 8 September 1976.) We consider both the site layout and built form to be inappropriate for the special townscape of this part of Sheffield and that they will very much detract from the local landscape. The proposal to paint the buildings white will only make the inappropriate style of the development more obvious; the colour will mean that it will dominate the local scene visually, especially in winter when the leaves fall. (See the University website on the colour aspect.)

We object strongly to the site layout as summarised on the University website and as shown in the detailed planning application documents now available at the Town Hall. Despite the University design team having worked on this for what appears to be almost a year, local residents first heard about the development in September. The timescale given at the public consultation stage did not allow a proper process of public consultation for such an immense scheme- such a process should have allowed adequate time for the University to work with the local community to modify the design solution to meet local people's reactions as well as the University's needs.

Our main objection is the density of students that the scheme will introduce into this residential area. All the other objections stem directly from this and the associated impact of the chosen site-layout and design on the local environment and people. A related important issue is the lack of any watertight commitment on how the long-term management of this site will operate once the student numbers increase - the nature and quality of management of the users as well as the environment required by such a scheme will be necessarily expensive. The need to control student behaviour at night has been a long-standing issue for local residents; it is noticeable that since the Public Consultation exercise, when this was raised, the University has taken steps to limit late night noise from students on the Endcliffe site. The noise that will be generated by the Hub is a major issue causing particular concern. It is in effect a 'pub with added party and eating facilities', with a potential catchment of 5,000 students. Closing hours will need to be strictly controlled by the University, working with the Licencing Authority. If the proposals for a 'Hub' are approved, it could well become the biggest pub outside the City centre - and it is surely questionable whether such a building would be allowed by the planning process in any other residential area of the City.

Appendix 1 -Location of the Hub

The following notes deal in greater detail with our various points of objection:


  1. We consider that the location of the hub within the Endcliffe site is entirely inappropriate and will impact very adversely on the quality of life of the existing local residents because of the noise from the building, particularly at night. If the Hub is going to be a successful venture, both in economic and social terms, it has to provide what students want. Understandably for that age group this means a place to meet, eat and drink. The plans for the Hub (Site T in the architects drawings) show that the architects have done an excellent job of understanding students- needs. The building, which appears to be about 60m x 25m (200 feet by 80 feet) is 2 storeys with a high roof at one end, it is shown as having dining facilities, retail facilities, kitchens and small meeting rooms on the lower floor, as well as bars, party rooms and smaller play rooms and other meeting rooms upstairs. The bars give out onto a balcony overlooking the greenspace, the so-called Paddock. Around the building there are hard surfaces, part of which are shown as outdoor eating/drinking areas. In addition, adjacent and to the west of the building a major paved area called the Square has been located, a place where students can gather and enjoy life on long summer evenings or use to cool off after partying on winter nights. Such a building and its associated outdoor spaces can only produce noise - even if as few as 1 in 10 of the students use it at any one time, this means 500 young people intent on making merry. While the decibel level produced by such a building might be acceptable in a city centre location where the ambient noise levels are anyway high, in a relatively low-density residential area where ambient noise levels are normally low, particularly at night, the perception of the noise levels can only be accentuated.
  2. We are concerned, therefore, about the noise emanating from the buildings themselves, which is likely to cause a very high level of disturbance at night for those residents living within 100m of the Hub and only a slightly lower level to those living within 200m. But we are also extremely concerned about the noise made by students walking to and from Ranmoor to the Hub along the shortest route, i.e. via Woodvale Road and the top end of Endcliffe Vale Road, particularly late at night after parties or drinking in the Hub bar. Even without any Hub to act as an attraction, this is already an issue for those living around the student accommodation in this area, and clearly our fears are that with this new development the noise levels will rise substantially. The plans lodged with the planning application show no attempt to provide the students with other footpath routes to the Hub. Instead, the Ranmoor student-housing layout is designed to encourage them to use Woodvale Road via the shared access path within the Ranmoor site. This path punches a wide hole in the old stone wall just across from the top of Woodvale Road; it seems to have been forgotten that these walls are part of the special conservation character of this part of Sheffield. The plans seem designed to make Woodvale Road the natural route to and from the Hub for the Ranmoor-based students
  3. We question whether a Hub is needed at all when we understand that the students will be provided with self-catering facilities. The students presently use the local centres of Broomhill, Sharrow Vale Road and Ecclesall Road for shopping - to the great economic benefit of the local shopkeepers and other businesses in those areas. Have local businesses been informed of the likely loss of trade if a Hub is built with plans for a large dining room and bars plus some retail facilities? These businesses are all suffering from the present restricted parking in their vicinity and to reduce the trade from students would be a severe economic blow - are Councillors aware of this aspect?
  4. If there has to be a Hub as a major social space on the Endcliffe site, then we believe that this could easily have been located at the eastern end of the site (possibly on the existing car park). There the noise and nuisance levels that it will inevitably generate would impact on properties in University or school (Birkdale) ownership, rather than on local residents. Despite suggestions at the public consultation stage that the University should consider moving the siting of the Hub, we note that in the present planning application it remains in its original position where it will create the maximum adverse effect for the residents to the west of the site (see Diagram 1). What was the point of the public consultation if no notice at all has been taken of the comments? (The dates shown on the drawings of most of the planning application maps and plans support this view.) From the level of detail of the drawings submitted for Site T (the Hub) it is can be surmised that this reluctance to consider any change might well be because the plans are already so far advanced and therefore so much has already been invested by the University in a design on this location.
  5. Diagram 1 illustrates our views about the major failure in the site layout with regard to the location of the Hub. It indicates how it would have been possible to ameliorate the noise problems associated with the Hub, at least to some extent, if a different location had been chosen and a footpath system were developed, which would divert students away from Woodvale Road. From the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted with the planning application few alternative solutions for the location of the Hub seem to have been considered by the design team and none of the ones included in the EIA would have really solved the noise problem.

    Diagram 1 - showing a more appropriate location for the Hub (note since drawing this map we have discovered that the houses to the north east of Halifax Hall are being considered for conversion to private housing - but we consider the quality of life needs of existing residents should take precedence over those of as yet unknow buyers - especially as housing being renovated can be properly insulated for noise by developers)


  1. We understand that the University is intending to sell the old Victorian houses to the northeast of Halifax Hall to developers for refurbishment and subsequent resale as residential housing. Is this why the University has been unwilling to consider another location for the Hub on the Endcliffe site? If so, then the existing residents in private housing to the west of the site may well suffer loss in the value of their homes due to increased noise levels, whilst the new build houses to the northeast, which could with ease be sound-proofed at the time they are refurbished for private use, will be in a relatively quiet location. In the University's alternatives for the site design - shown in the Environmental Impact Assessment - the Hub was shown 50m to the east of the presently proposed site.  Unfortunately, that would have made no difference to local residents in terms of noise levels.
  2. An additional problem for the Woodvale Road and Fulwood Road private residents is the shape of the long block of flats. It is such that noise from the Hub will be bounced back towards the housing in Woodvale Road, whereas it could have been curved to deflect the noise eastwards. In any case the Hub should have cladding which absorbs noise and does not bounce it.
    Note: The University of Birmingham Campus has a new Hub on the student campus; have noise studies been undertaken there to establish decibel levels, which we understand are noticeable at all hours of the night?
  3. Hub damages landscape
    A further issue concerning the location of the Hub that seems to have been neglected by the site design team, is the number of trees to be felled and the destruction of one of the few remaining historic landscape features if it is built in the proposed location. In the EIA submitted by the University there is a landscape assessment of the site. This shows the relatively small areas of the Endcliffe site where there are any remnants of the historic landscapes associated with the 19th century development of this part of Sheffield (the edges of the site are largely where the major historic landscape features have survived). Unfortunately, one of the sites where historic features are shown in the EIA is exactly where the Hub is proposed, and the tree belt and the cluster of trees to the north of the wall which are part of the historic features of this conservation site are all to be demolished in the proposed plan. The stone wall the plan shows is supposed to be incorporated into the building. In order that this can happen it would have to be totally re-built, at great expense - conservation?. Why locate the Hub here when it could have been sited elsewhere?


Appendix 2 - The flats

There are several general issues of concern relating to the building of the flats.


  • Light pollution
    This will greatly increase with the new development, because of the rise in the area of land covered by buildings and the increased number of students. Unless lighting is designed properly from the outset, so that it is not in the form of high level floodlighting (or other up-lighting) of the spaces between buildings, the site will inevitably become bright at night. The density of development and the need for safe movement into and around the site by students will mean pressure for higher light levels at night, so this must be thought about now and be considered as part of any planning approval, as well as properly provided for within the budget. This is a special, dark area of the city and changing that will change the character of the area.
  • Traffic - vehicles, cycles and pedestrians on the Endcliffe part of the Campus
    • Car parking
      While the planning statement shows that just over 400 parking places will be provided on all the sites under consideration, only a few of these are associated with the major concentration of students, on the Endcliffe site. There seem to be about 70 spaces in the proposed parking areas on the Endcliffe site, with the possibility of more spaces adjacent to the flats off the main access road; it is unclear on the drawings, however, exactly how many the Endcliffe site will provide in total. There is also no information on how the University will control students wishing to bring cars to Sheffield; will those without a parking space want to park around the Paddock as seems to be implied in the EIA for the times when parents deliver students? In these circumstances it would be essential that a residents only parking scheme were introduced for Endcliffe Vale Road and Woodvale Road. If the University is aiming to reduce the number of parking spaces in relation to the number of students on the Endcliffe site, this could be considered a good thing, as it limits the number of car movements. But the University needs to show how it will control student parking in the vicinity.
    • Sight lines
      In the Environmental Impact assessment it seems to be implied that Red Lane will be the main access to the Endcliffe Site. In order that the sight lines are adequate, this would mean knocking down the stone walls (part of the conservation area) to widen the road and the junction, The new road and path system will anyway create far more damage to the existing vegetation than is implied by the drawings. The sites are on a slope, so to achieve the right profile it will be necessary to dig into that slope when the paths go along the contours. This action will disturb the local water table and so cause stress to mature and semi-mature and even young established trees, leading eventually to their death and removal. Laying out the internal roadways as well as the parking places will inevitably damage the roots of those same trees that the planning proposal claims it aims to preserve.
      There are also issues of poor sight lines at almost all entrances to the Endcliffe site, which will become critical as traffic increases and so lead to further demolition of the historic estate walls.
    • Sustainable Campus
      The University could have considered a ban on cars from the site altogether, only allowing dropping off and parking meter controlled spaces for visitors. The University could promote this site as a sustainable campus, a place with a safe cycle track and footpath to the University (see possible footways Diagram 1 above). It can already be promoted as a place with good access to lots of greenspace and fresh air. On one of the large-scale plans we have found a small path with a 'dog leg' between the Endcliffe site and Oakholme Road, but the geometry of this will not work for a cycle route. From Oakholme Road a pedestrian/cycle route could be made between Crewe and Stephenson, leading out to the top of Westbourne Road, then along Melbourne Avenue coming out on to the road system at the Rutland Hotel traffic lights - it would have the advantage of making a safe route for local cyclists as well as students,. It would be perfectly possible to design a cycle and pedestrian route, much of it through University property but detailed for this to happen detailed plans are needed at this planning application stage to show how it could function effectively, and to ensure it is actually built and preferably before the redevelopment of the site begins. Such a route would split the students from the road traffic and associated air pollution and would knock at least 5 minutes off the walk to the University for local people as well as students. It would then be up to the City to make a better roadside cycle path for the last lap, and up to the University to provide cycle parks by all buildings.
      Where are the bicycle sheds that the planning statement implies will be needed? Is the provision proposed sufficient, when the City has a planning policy of encouraging cycling and walking? There are better solutions than the ones proposed in the present planning application and they could be seen as a planning gain for the local community.
  • Noise
    • From student housing The number of units on the Endcliffe site in particular will result in a substantial increase in noise from students, from music, parties, other gatherings, etc. We would like to know how the University proposes to manage and run these flats to control the noise levels, day and night. It is surely essential that managers and security people to be on site all night to control the behaviour of 5,000 young people - has accommodation been set aside for this?
    • During the construction period (over 4 years) there will be considerable disruption from building noise and traffic affecting the whole area. The demolition period will of itself cause considerable problems to the neighbourhood. For example, we have very roughly calculated there will be at least 200 lorry loads involved in the demolition of Sorby Hall alone. The dust from the demolition phased over 4 years will be an added problem. The EIA states that there will be no parking for workmen on or near the site: they are to arrive by public transport!! How is the University going to ensure any developer will follow this and how will it stop the Paddock roadside being used as a car park, never mind the local roads?

Appendix 3 Tree Cover


  • Damage to the local landscape
    This proposed development would cause damage to the local landscape through the removal of tree cover. The proposed eradication of trees during and after construction is a cause for alarm and seems excessive for the layout. Their plan for tree removal (see Diagram 2 of their Tree Appraisal) can be seen in the EIA statement and on the full plan of the Application lodged in the City Planning Department. The diagram below indicates in rough sketch form the quantity of trees which appear to be being considered for removal in the part of the site around Sorby and Earnshaw Halls alone.


        Diagram 2


  • Felling of trees
    The tree section of the EIA (Vol.2 Sect. 7) is very imprecise and can be read in many ways - in one paragraph the University emphasises they are only felling 60 mature trees and in the next there is a reference to the need to consider felling 492 for arboricultural reasons. The planning conditions will need to be very precise to limit and control what is felled and when and to ensure that any new planting goes in and has time to settle down (10+ years) before any unnecessary felling of existing trees in areas not being built over takes place.
    Note: Their EIA Volume 2, Section 7.13 states that of the mature trees over 80 years old only "60 trees out of a total stock of 244" require to be removed by the construction process. (This is bad enough in itself, although the document implies that 50 of these need to removed for arboricultural reasons.)
    In 7.14 of the EIA it is stated that there are "a total of 492 trees on the sites that require or could require removal in the near future for arboricultural reasons." They write of public safety as the reason for this.

    It is perhaps worth reflecting that if their criteria for judging tree health (see their Tree Assessment) and their argument for removal were accepted, then almost every tree of mature size in the Broomhill and Ranmoor Districts of Sheffield should be felled instantly - that is most of the trees in the Conservation Areas! It is these trees, which they would remove for arboricultural reasons -with their bits of naturally occurring decay in them - that support the present local levels of biodiversity identified in their Ecology assessment.
    It is, of course, reasonable to remove trees that are in danger of falling down where pruning is impossible, but it is suggested that it is unreasonable to cut such a swathe through our local tree cover - the smaller trees on the site matter too. Even if many of the semi-mature and younger trees are not splendid specimens (as the tree assessment shows), they are still alive, have taken many decades to grow and support biodiversity.
  • Planting of new trees
    Proposing to plant over 200 new semi-mature trees as shown by the Landscape Plan, Volume 2, Sect. 7 is entirely inadequate. It will take many decades before the new 'lollipop' semi-mature trees grow to a decent size, unless the University is going to pay for very large (and expensive) new trees. Such trees are associated with very high maintenance costs, unless a very high death rate is accepted. (Incidentally, the 'lollipop' semi-mature trees are shown on the Landscape Plans at over twice the breadth they will have when planted.) There is research to show that semi-mature trees struggle to survive for a long period after planting before they can begin to grow again, that is if they survive that period of stress. The expense of planting semi-mature trees is caused by the need for very regular watering in early years, guying and long-term care and frequently re-planting. Such trees are expensive to plant and to look after. Who will do this - the University has admitted that it has neglected the site over recent decades and that is why so many trees need work on them. Who will pay for this?
  • Importance of tree cover
    The special feature of this suburb of Sheffield is its tree cover of mature (some over 120 years old) and semi-mature (up to 80 years old) trees. It is the trees as much as the built form and street-side stone walls that make the very special, nationally recognised, local urban landscape of distinction. The trees are not just visual features: they improve air quality locally by trapping airborne dirt particles. There is research evidence that older trees are better at improving air quality than newly planted ones. The square metres of filter lost to the city from the reduction of tree cover proposed by the University would therefore be considerable. Research by Bernatsky (1969) showed that an 80 year old beech tree could have a total of 1,600 square metres of leaf surface on which dirt and other pollutants could settle, greatly to the benefit of the immediate environment.
    In this area of the city the trees are important in terms of the local biodiversity, since each individual tree supports a wide range of other species the older it becomes: mosses, lichens, insects, and it is this which supports the mammals, bats and birds mentioned in the EIA. A tree, which to an expert arboriculturist looks decayed, is rich in its capacity to support biodiversity. Any new trees cannot fulfil this function for many decades and the loss of established tree cover will be devastating to the bats and birdlife and the insects on which they live. (Note: This local area supports owls and their numbers are declining fast; this plan will most likely eradicate them.) The large trees also have an effect on the local micro climate (it takes 40 to 50 years for a tree to grow sufficiently to make an impact); their presence makes this a more enjoyable area to be out in winter (they reduce wind speed even when bare of leaves) and create shade and cooler places in summer as well as enhance the visual qualities of the area. It is worth noting that large trees in belts can create shelter for buildings, so reducing energy consumption but there is no sign of this solution being applied in the proposed Landscape Plan.
    Note: Were the Ecologists who did the EIA section on ecology aware of the number of trees to be felled as there is no real assessment of the impact of this proposal on the present biodiversity of the site? The ecology section is weak on stressing urban biodiversity issues (only mentioning it at the end of the statement) dealing mainly with species identification rather than the niches and landscape characteristics which support the species.
    Large trees can be a source of delight for everybody. Individually their different forms and colours create diversity and interest in an increasingly built-up environment. There is also evidence from throughout the world of a link between property prices and the level of tree cover: the more trees and the bigger the trees, the higher the price in relation to floor area of houses.
  • Damage to trees
    Damage to trees during construction from soil compaction, drainage and other services routes, and accidental damage from the swinging of the cranes is inevitable in a scheme such as this. Many of those mature trees shown for retention are bound to have their branches or route systems damaged during construction operations, so the number of trees lost will be worse than the plans currently show. Trees are not sculptures, they are living objects and any disturbance, particularly to the local water table and the soil surface immediately around them, leads to stress and damage, if not death. The new drainage plans forthe site appear bound to change the water table substantially for many trees - do we really want so many mature trees to die? Many trees in this area of Sheffield have been damaged during construction operations, as evidenced by the trees, which now need to be felled in front of the student flats built overlooking Endcliffe Vale Road in the 1990s. The trees were preserved by the designers, but damaged during construction and this has led to their very early death.
    In particular, the proposed housing on the Endcliffe site, much of which is 5 storeys high, will cause considerable new shading and wind turbulence. This will consequently influence the long-term survival of existing vegetation.

Appendix 4 - A sustainable plan?

Whether this planning application proposes a sustainable solution to bringing more students into this site needs to be questioned.

Demolition of existing buildings
Use of building materials and transporting them requires energy - their use and reuse is, therefore, part of planning for sustainability. While there may be insoluble problems in relation to Sorby Hall which means that it has to be demolished, whether this is so for all the other buildings is questionable. A member of the Woodvale Road group was told by a University representative that Ranmoor House still has a life of at least 25 years, so is it sustainable to propose to demolish it now, particularly as from what we can see from the document, there would be little gain in bed spaces in that area? As it happens, Ranmoor House is one of the more aesthetically pleasing blocks of flats built by the University in the expansion period of the 1960s and 1970s - viewed from Fulwood Road through the mature and semi mature trees, it is attractive.

Plants and biodiversity
On environmental grounds, the proposal cannot be regarded as sustainable in its impact on landscape and plants, as it stands.

We are not in a position to judge how energy implications of the design will be dealt with on the information available, but it is to be hoped that active and passive solar heating will be properly utilised, as well as the necessary high levels of insulation, to ensure low-level energy consumption. The curved of the roof would seem to make it difficult to use the large south facing roof for solar energy

In the limited time available to look at the planning application, it has not been possible to identify how the buildings are to be heated. If a central heating unit is to be incorporated into the Endcliffe site, then this could be another noise and pollution source.


How waste is to be disposed of is also unclear at present.  A great deal will be generated by this number of students and will involve constant traffic movement by waste disposal and recycling vehicles.

Quality of Life
Livability This is an issue for local people in terms of the impact of the proposals on the quality of life of the existing residential population. Little account has been taken of this impact in the submitted proposal - what is proposed is not sustainable in its present form. In terms of its impact on student life it may be to their benefit in certain respects, but then the present site layout, with its generous greenspace, is even better for students as a residential environment.

Water management
On a site such as this, being built when all cities are supposed to be putting an emphasis on environmental as well as social and economic sustainability, it would be usual to expect to see an on-site water collection and disposal scheme in the plans, but where is this? It is noted that the University intends to have a more complex drainage system, but where is the landscape design that shows how surface water could be gathered and cleansed before flowing into the local drainage system or being used for watering the greenspaces and their plants? Localised flash flooding is inevitable when associated with such an increase in the paved and built-over surface of the site, and this could be dealt with on-site through water holding arrangements within the soft landscape areas. Yet there is also no evidence of this in the plans.

Designing a Campus as a place to live in
This campus should be something very special, as it is such a wonderful site to work with - the external areas matter as much as the internal. Designing a campus is a real art - it is about making places for young people and those they live amongst, not just a matter of locating a set of buildings and linking them with paths and roads. As yet we can see little understanding of this in the plans for the buildings or external areas, although it is good to see the Paddock is being preserved. It is definitely not too early to be thinking about the outside spaces at this stage of the planning process and the details of the way they will be designed should have been part of this planning application. What is shown at present is nothing but decorative planting in the external spaces, with no understanding of the art of making places. The Landscape Plan as presented is entirely inadequate and the plan should not be approved until it is redone. It needs to show not just how the hard and soft surfaces will be designed, but also an understanding of how the external areas will be managed in the long as well as short-term. How the users feel about these spaces will determine the success and safety of the site; they are not just something to be decorated afterwards.

Final version - ARB - 18 November 2004