The controversial multi-million pound development of a Grade I listed 240-year-old Roehampton stately home, in Wandsworth, has been unveiled by the University of Surrey.

Whitelands College plans huge changes to the vacant Parkstead House formerly known as Manresa in Holybourne Avenue on the Alton Estate, including 317 bedroom, four and five-storey accommodation blocks, and a four-storey academic complex to house life sciences, psychology and sport.

The 1,500 student college, now at West Hill, in Putney, bought Parkstead, last year, and also plans to build new playing fields, a sports pavilion, all-weather courts and a two storey social complex on the house's 14 acre grounds.

Wandsworth Council has launched a major consultation with local residents, English Heritage, the Alton Estate Residents' Management Organisation and the Putney Society over the application and another to alter Parkstead's listed building status.

The development is part of the University of Surrey's strategic plan to bring the Roehampton campus' four colleges together at the Roehampton Lane site by October 2004. At present, students at Whitelands College have to take a bus to the main campus.

The move comes after Whitelands, the oldest higher education establishment after Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London universities, built five modern halls of residence as 1998.

But Parkstead's history and position mean the university's plans are bound to cause controversy.

The house and landscaped gardens were laid out for the Earl of Bessborough in the 1760s, before the Jesuit religious order took it over as a seminary in 1861, with poet Gerard Manley Hopkins being its most famous incumbent.

Putney Society spokesman John Horrocks welcomed the moves, but warned the plans might be over-develop the site.

"They're trying to build more than the site can really accommodate. It's a bit like fitting a quart into a pint pot," he said.

The university declined to comment.

October 18, 2002 10:00