Redevelopment from Commercial to Student Accommodation

Our clients approached us having purchased a brownfield site, formerly single-storey commercial units with planning permission for redevelopment as flats, however given its proximity to the University of Greenwich, they wanted to apply for planning permission for a 4-storey student accommodation block instead.

Redevelopment from Commercial to Student Accommodation

The Brief

To prepare, manage and submit a planning application for the redevelopment of a brownfield site into a 61-bed student accommodation within Flood Zone 3.


Our Approach

We met with the client on site to assess the surrounding area, identifying a key constraint in the neighbouring Grade II listed building, an old library.

We had to ensure that there would be no impact on the listed building, checking the design, siting, and height of the proposed new build. Its setting already compromised with the most important aspect of the building facing the road, on the other side from the development site.

As for the interior, we liaised with the architect to ensure every room was well proportioned, had a good outlook and plenty of natural light.

Appreciation of Flood Zones

Due to its proximity to the River Thames, Greenwich is in Flood Zone 3, the worst for flood risk, but as a result, benefits from well-established flood defences. This meant accompanying the Planning Application with a Flood Risk Assessment, which we outsourced to specialist consultants.

One of the restrictions within Flood Zone 3 is the prerequisite that you can’t have habitable accommodation on the ground floor, so we liaised closely with engineers and architects, to ensure the ground floor incorporated reception, communal area, games room and laundry room with the bedroom accommodation positioned over floors 2, 3 and 4. With safety measures incorporated to mitigate any eventuality, including alarms and fire escapes.

Redevelopment from Commercial to Student Accommodation Photo Credit: Credit Environment Agency

Our Multi-Disciplinary Team

In addition to the Flood Risk Consultants, we brought in sustainability, noise and energy consultants, along with air quality assessors and Sunlight/Daylight specialists and to address affordable housing arguments, a Financial Viability Assessment.

We liaised with the local University to verify demand for the additional accommodation block and collated each consultant’s findings in a comprehensive Planning Statement. Assessing the development against London Plan policies and Royal Borough of Greenwich Core Strategy. Provision for disabled parking was included but as students don’t own or take cars to Uni, we argued that this would be a sustainable location and wouldn’t require space for lots of cars.

With this 360-degree approach we proved the case for the viability of the proposed student housing, also showing that the development would have no more impact on the character of the neighbouring Grade II Listed Building than the extant planning permission already granted.


We worked closely with the Planning Officer at Greenwich Borough Council, submitting the Planning Application to Planning Committee, which was approved within the 12-week period.

Then Covid struck…

With construction complete, the onset of Covid meant all students went home.

Client instructed us to apply for Temporary Planning Permission to convert the student accommodation into an Apart Hotel during the pandemic, so they could still rent the rooms for visitors on business trips. With a few precedents in London, we applied for a Temporary Change of use, to generate an income while the students were absent.


Project: Redevelopment of Brownfield Site
Building: 61 Bedroom Student Accommodation Block
Location: Greenwich, SE10
Status: Planning Permission Approved & Temporary Planning Permission Granted
Architect: Bowman Riley Architects


Dan Roycroft

t: +44 (0)1722 638 008
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