With increasing problems in recent years, Imperial's Southside Hall has become notorious as the College spoke of plans to replace it, describing it as "significantly flawed and beyond its useful life" and voicing concerns that it could not comply with new disabilities legislation.
Last summer, it was announced that the hall would be closed at he end of this year.
A significant step forward came in September, when English Heritage informed College's Estates department that they would not object to the demolition of Southside, Listed as an example of 1960's architecture, since the proposed new development were of a more "appropriate scale, height, form and design which will enhance the setting of the adjacent listed terraces and the character and appearance of the Knightsbridge conservation area."
However, with over 300 objections from neighbours and elections this year, it was feared that Westminster city Council would refuse planning permission, and students living in that constituency were asked to write in support of the application.
The Union noted this request, but so far the response had been limited, and so the announcement that the proposal has now been accepted came as a surprise to many.
The new development will provide 349 more beds, in spite of being reduced to the height of the surrounding buildings: this is to be achieved in part by a more efficient circulation system, with significantly less space taken up by corridors and staircases, although the gym and tennis courts will be lost. Work on Southside will start this July, and is expected to be completed by October 2007. College then plan to replace Linsted, having decided against replacing both at once, in spite of some savings during the building work, since they would not be able to meet their first year accommodation guarantee with both halls out of use at once.
Sam Rorke, ICU Deputy President (Education and Welfare), said, "The Union is optimistic about the current status of the planning application, although certain formalities remain to be completed. This is an exciting project, and its success is very important for our students, as the current residence has reached the end of its useful life."
The new buildings aim to be more in keeping with the height and form of the surrounding terraces, whilst still being "unmistakably modern" in design. The new buildings will also include the health centre with dental practice, a cr?che, convenience shop, and (perhaps of greatest interest to some students) a "licensed caf?".