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RVC Hawkshead - planning for the future

The RVC site
One of the recent additions to the RVC Hawkshead Campus since the successful 2000 planning application
  Camera courtesy of Fujifilm

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has produced a brochure supporting its proposals for the next stage of development at its Hawkshead campus.

Welwyn Hatfield District Council (WHDC) says a master planning brief and outline planning application have been submitted proposing new educational, clinical and residential facilities at Hawkshead Lane.

The following is the text taken from the RVC brochure entitled 'Planning for the future - RVC Hawkshead'.

The draft planning guidance includes a key diagram of the proposals.

Planning for the future of RVC Hawkshead
The text from the RVC brochure

What is going on?

The Royal Veterinary College is rolling forward its strategic planning framework for the longer-term future of Hawkshead.

Work is proceeding on two particular fronts:

  1. Developing up-to-date planning guidance - in line with (and eventually as part of) the Welwyn Hatfield District Plan
  2. Bringing forward an outline planning application (as it has done on previous occasions) to complement the planning guidance.
These will move forward previous planning concepts (and permissions), extend them in the context of contemporary planning, and provide a framework for up to twenty years.

They are a continuation of the college’s work with local authorities, public agencies, etc - such as in contributing to the review of local plans (including those for transport) and Watling Chase Community Forest.

It does not mean that the college is about to launch immediately into another period of major new construction on the Hawkshead main site.

What is being proposed?

The Royal Veterinary College’s Camden Campus in London will continue to function intensively and in conjunction with the Hawkshead Campus.

The college has won significant specific investments for better teaching and science facilities, a student 'village', and the addition of a third and fourth floor to the Hobday Building.

The student population at Camden will grow to about 40% of the college’s total.

The college’s 245 hectare Hawkshead Campus provides a major rural buffer between the development pressure points of Brookmans Park, Little Heath and Potters Bar.

The campus is orientated towards the clinical aspects of veterinary education and science.

A substantial rural estate is essential for the college’s work with larger animals.

While most of the estate will continue much as before, some further facilities will be needed on the Hawkshead main site.

This long-established group of buildings has been recognised as a 'major development site' whose special circumstances justify controlled development to take place in this part of the green belt.

The planning guidance which has just been prepared in draft for Hawkshead, involves a range of planning issues.

These include:

  1. The need for holistic planning - such as to provide continuity, care and recognition of the risk of future uncertainty
  2. The need for quality design which takes account of the appropriate practical considerations. For example:
    • The characteristics required of a facility often affects the resulting design - e.g., to carefully move sick animals in slings from a powered overhead railway requires buildings of suitable height and strength ...
    • Future buildings should be no higher than those already on campus. Most of the animal-orientated buildings will need to be single-storey so that there is ground-level comfort and access to nearby turn-out paddocks ...
  3. The need for development to be sustainable (a well-established aspect of the college’s operations under HE21 - the higher-education equivalent of Local Agenda 21). For example through:
    • Working to reduce the need for energy or water, to improve thermal & acoustic insulation, ...
    • Continuing to promote recycling - such as of office paper & consumables; by re-using paper or shredding it for packing or bedding; carefully composting and ploughing back animal bedding; crushing old concrete etc for green-lane consolidation; salvaging and re-using fencing materials; redeploying surplus soil for ground-sculpting (as part of future landscape features); chipping, logging or planking dead trees
    Recent green schemes include: designing a milking parlour so that the cooling water is then re-used for washing down yards; installing a ground-coupling scheme for heating/ cooling the new learning resources centre (alongside the use of brise soleil, special materials, hi-tech BMS systems, etc); a surface-water lagoon system
  4. The need for integrated planning & management - such as to incorporate schemes of landscaping that range from the 'macro' (eg a rolling programme of mass tree-planting) through to the 'micro'(eg the re-introduction in particular places of historic fruit tree varieties from the national collection)
  5. Continuing the long-established strategy of land-use zones, where:
    • Residential facilities predominate in the west of the Hawkshead main site, general academic facilities are located in the centre, and the majority of clinical/ animal-orientated facilities are located to the east
    • Public access facilities (such as hospitals and parking) are generally located to be accessible from the Hawkshead Lane frontage.Those facilities which need greater control (to reduce the risk of disease transferring between animals) are generally located deeper in to the Main Site.
  6. Continuing to:
    • Make the best use of existing facilities through management, refurbishment, and/ or conversion. For example, the reorganisation of parts of the main building (H20) to allow conversion of an old operating suite and common room into more modern laboratory and other facilities
    • Explore opportunities for infill and/or redevelopment (where a facility is at the end of its physical/ economic life). For example the recent demolition and re-use of the footprint of an old barn for a new animal-isolation facility
    • Consider new-build as a last option: after all, with the college’s many other claims on its limited resources (and its reliance on fund-raising), investment in a new facility is a major capital & recurrent commitment. For example the college had to use an increasingly inadequate old building for over forty years before its priorities could allow a purpose-designed library/ learning resource centre to be built.
The planning guidance will carry forward some features from previous planning guidance and consents. For example, a clinical entrance (first proposed to be built east of the Queen Mother Hospital years ago) will improve traffic management and bio-care by separating sick animals from those that are surgical patients.

Overall the college needs to be able to make reasonable provision for:

  1. Additional:
    • Education/ teaching facilities
    • Scientific facilities - for example, directly linked to the specialised pathology facilities in the Mill Reef Building (H57)
    • Clinical facilities - for example, the next phase of accommodation at the QMHA for clinically-based teaching and other work
    • On-site residential accommodate for students and/or key-staff
    • Animal-orientated facilities - for example, wide-span barns (that allow flexible over-wintering arrangements for cattle, sheep, goats, etc), feed and bedding barns, muck-handling facilities, etc
    • Landscape features - for example new hedging arrangements, shelter belts, field corner planting, tree planting for visual amenity and for wildlife habitats.
  2. Improved:
    • Leisure facilities that offer opportunities for multi-use (for example, replacing the inadequate sports pavilion)
    • Arrangements for handling traffic - which ranges from pedestrian and livestock movements through to long distance lorry deliveries.
Traffic is a frequently discussed topic, especially on those occasions when an animal lorry has slowed or briefly stopped traffic in Hawkshead Lane west.

There continues to be significant growth in the general traffic of the area (including commuting, shopping and school trips), high rates of car ownership per local household, a significant proportion of the more substantial vehicle types, etc.

Travel studies show that college-related traffic is in a minority (and that not all large vehicles in Hawkshead Lane are visiting the campus); the majority of college-associated traffic uses Hawkshead Lane east to get to/ from the main site.

The college’s continuing travel planning initiatives include:

  • Ongoing assessments so that issues are kept in proportion and account is taken of other concerns in the surrounding area (such as access to/ from the Cranborne Industrial Estate)
  • Extending the 30mph speed limit in Hawkshead Lane to the east, adding traffic calming measures (at the college’s expense), and pressing for speed limit enforcement, safe crossing arrangements for livestock, etc
  • Proposing new integrated signposting in and around local roads (to which RVC would contribute)
  • Encouraging vehicles to approach/leave RVC from/to the east (through prior guidance, better signposting, etc); encouraging further car-sharing (already well-established with students) and public transport facilities
  • Extending & improving its own minibus services, and paying for the local bus service to include Hawkshead.
The college will continue to look for further improvement opportunities year-on-year.

The draft planning guidance includes a key diagram to show:

  • Existing buildings, existing planning consents, potential redevelopment opportunities, etc
  • Where new facilities may be required in the future - such as new buildings or landscape amenity features
  • The area which is the subject of the current outline planning application ...
When will anything happen and how?

New building at Hawkshead will take place in the future:

  • Only as and when the college concludes that it has to commit to the investment ...
  • In the context of detailed proposals drawn up within the finally-agreed planning guidance, and which look closely at all the circumstances. Detailed/ full planning applications will continue to go through the local planning authority’s procedures (including for public consultation).
The college will continue to work closely with the local authorities, public agencies, etc over a whole range of planning issues: from prospective new facilities and their implications, through to prospective tree surgery or advance-planting schemes.

Why is this happening?

For a variety of reasons, including:

  • The increasing national need for highly-trained professionals to work on animal welfare, disease control, etc
  • The need for the college to continue to evolve - as the only institution of its type in the UK, as its largest and oldest veterinary school, and as an educational charity. It is an internationally-recognised institution, and has worked in its field for over 200 years. It runs three hospital facilities. It is constantly innovating - in education (such as out-reach to schools and initiatives for the disabled), science and animal-care. Most of its work has a strong practical orientation
  • The need to support government policy - such as for universities to provide greater access-opportunities to higher education courses. There is substantial continuing demand for places on veterinary and related courses current work on the production of local and other plans for this part of Hertfordshire
  • To show the college’s vision for the future to potential supporters, benefactors and to stakeholders.
Overall the process of planning-ahead simply makes good common sense

How can I find out more? Contribute?

By contacting the college - with comments, questions, suggestions, or requests for more information/documents.
RVC contact points: Tel: 01707 666333 ext 5111
Address: The Royal Veterinary College (ref JFPG), Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, HERTS AL9 7TA

By commenting to Welwyn Hatfield Council’s Planning Department:
Address: Welwyn Hatfield Council Planning Department, Council Offices, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire AL8 6AE (Tel: 01707 357000).

Bulletin Board

The college is seeking views from people as to how they would plan for the college to have a viable future. An 'open forum' is to be held at RVC Hawkshead starting at 8pm on Thursday 20th March in the refectory of Northumberland Hall (Building H75). Car parking is available beside the campus Main Entrance. The Hall is a short signposted walk away.

14 March 2003

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Bridge: No weight restriction needed - 3 March 2000
Hawkshead Lane bridge begins to crack - 27 February 2000
Vet college: assurances demanded - 14 February 2000
Bypass: society urged to think again - 6 February 2000
E-mail opposing bypass plan - 6 February 2000
Green Belt Committee e-mail - 5 February 2000
Green Belt Society backs bypass - 5 February 2000
Anger over bypass plan - 30 January 2000
Hawkshead Lane bypass bid - 26 January 2000
Vet college expansion plans submitted - 26 January 2000
Green belt vets expansion plans - 10 December 1999
Vet College expansion opposed - 13 November 1999
Green belt letter opposing expansion - 13 November 1999
Vet College plans to expand - 29 September 1999

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