Imperial is a global university with an excellent reputation for teaching in science, engineering, business and medicine. Londoners have much respect for the College..
Over the years, Imperial has become increasingly involved in a range of business partnerships. Imperial College Enterprise Funds provide early-stage fundin for start-ups in medicine, engineering, biochemistry, genetics, materials, computer science and many more.
The College has also embarked on property developments. The White City Campus was planned from the start to provide a series of academic buildings, but also a 35 storey residential tower, commercial office space, and four blocks of student housing (for occupation by graduate students not limited to Imperial).
Similar student housing developments have been built at North Acton. The College also developed Clayworks Apartments, with 85 studios and small flats. At both 88 Wood Lane and at Claygate a proportion of these apartments are reserved for ‘key workers’. Eligibility as a ‘key worker’ is not limited to Imperial College or Imperial NHS Healthcare employees.
One Portal Way is a development on a different scale, with potentially 1,300 housing units and a hotel, including some ‘co-living’ units. The scheme includes 2,300 sq m of commercial space above ground and a similar amount 2 levels of basement space..
The scheme has been progressed by the College’s Endowment. This is a vehicle set up in 2005 Fund to generate income from unfettered assets to support the College’s academic mission.
Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum has been corresponding with the College in recent months. We wish to be assured that the College has the legal capacity under its ‘Objects’ and 2007 Statute as a university, to engage in purely commercial property developments which can be viewed as speculative and high risk.
The College has told us that The Endowment manages funds that are available for investment, known as “Non-Core Assets”, and has full authority from the College Council to invest these funds as it sees fit, including in land and property.
Having looked at various governance documents on the College’s website, we are not yet persuaded that matters are that simple. All universities manage and invest large funds, and have purchased land and built buildings for centuries. But is is appropriate, or possibly beyond the powers of a university where such property developments cease to have any connection with academic facilities, or those for university staff or students?
We also question whether the College has considered all the reputational implications of promoting and building a development with a building typology (high density and extreme height towers) now known to be contrary to Imperial’s stated aims on zero carbon and its world-leading work on Climate Change.
This correspondence continues.. You may like to see the latest letter from the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum to Imperial College. OONF to Imperial on One Portal Way 16 Jan 2022
We have since had a brief response from the College, saying that they have nothing further to say on this subject. We have replied further, with more material on how universities are expected to manage the property estates. Please see this OONF and Imperial ermail exchange February 2022.
We will not be dropping this subject anytime soon.