University of Leicester Announces Plans for £14 million Residential Conference Facility

The University of Leicester has announced a £14m project to transform a Grade II Listed building into a leading residential conference venue.

The University is planning to transform the five-acre former College Hall site in Knighton, which has not been used since 2005, into a high quality 117 en suite bedroom conference facility with break out rooms, dining facilities and 150-seat lecture theatre.

Subject to planning permission, it will be the first time in the University’s history that an all-year round conference facility is available- currently residential conferences are only able to be held at University facilities during the holidays. It would also allow the University to dedicate tailored facilities for academic and business conference needs.

The proposed development, designed by Associated Architects of Birmingham, will mean that all inward investment for conferences would be able to be considered which would generate additional income to contribute to the development of the University.

The announcement comes just weeks after the University of Leicester opened its £17 million refurbished Percy Gee Students’ Union building and announced its intention to develop a:

- £30 million Medical teaching building

- £12.6 million Cardiovascular Research Centre

In total the University has invested £50 million in the last three years alone and the University has an anticipated capital investment programme of over £200m over the next few years. Funding for the proposed development is from a variety of sources including loans and reserves allocated for capital development.

Grant Charman, Deputy Director of Estates said the proposed development would breathe new life into the building that was completed in 1960. Mr Charman said: “The Hall has been closed since 2005 and presents a difficult issue for the University in terms of how best to use the asset. Redevelopment is not straight forward due to the listed building status, and we will work closely with the planners and English Heritage to bring the building back into use in a sympathetic way.”

College Hall was formerly a 180-bed student accommodation and had served this purpose for 45 years. Mr Charman added: “As student needs have changed, College Hall became inappropriate as a student hall - it was isolated from other students and there was also no opportunity for self-catered accommodation.

“We therefore believe that bringing the building back into use would enhance the site and prove to be an asset for the University and the community. This facility will enhance the status of the University, support research and teaching activities. One key aim of the development is to create a centre which allows the University to work in partnership with business and industry as set out in the University’s Strategic Vision to 2015.

“The centre would also take additional bookings such as weddings and other celebrations to supplement conferences and provide a valuable asset for community use. We have already held a public consultation exercise and have received positive written and verbal feedback.”

A particular feature of the development is the improvements proposed for the 17th Century Grade II Listed building The Grove at the rear of the site. This will be refurbished to provide hi-specification short-term accommodation for visiting academics.

Landscaping and planting would enhance the appearance of the proposed re-development and parking for 124 vehicles would be provided. The site is adjacent to the University’s arboretum which also has parking facilities. Plans are due to be submitted to the council at the end of May and, if successful, the aim is to complete development work in just over a year.

Trevor Miller, Conference Sales and Marketing Manager at Leicester Conferences (the University’s dedicated Conferences, meetings and events team) comments: “We are delighted with the University’s plans to develop College Hall into a residential conference venue. The announced plans demonstrate and reinforce the University’s commitment to the UK’s meetings industry and in particular the conference market. The redeveloped College Hall would be a significant addition to Leicester Conferences portfolio of venues which currently includes residential conference facilities during student vacation periods and year-round day conference availability. A venue to a four star standard proposed for College Hall would allow Leicester Conferences to appeal to a wider audience and strengthen Leicester’s position as a very central and accessible location and a destination of choice for conferences and events.”

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