A residents’ guide to the problems relating to the presence of Royal Holloway

We are a group of local residents that are becoming increasingly concerned about the effects of the expansion of Royal Holloway upon our community.

We are not against Royal Holloway per se and we are not anti-student.  Indeed, many of us have been students ourselves and we recognise the benefits of tertiary education not just for the individual graduate, but also the advantages that an educated workforce can have for the wider economy.

We need a better Royal Holloway – not a bigger Royal Holloway

We also recognise that tertiary education is now big business and that there are plenty of opportunities to make an economic gain from a large student population looking to improve their education.  However, just as this education comes at a cost to those students, there has also been a cost to the local communities and this is something that we need to talk about.

Since the inception of Royal Holloway’s ‘Masterplan’ we have seen an unprecedented increase in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in both Egham and Englefield Green with a corresponding decrease in homes available to families.

As more students live in the community, we have seen an increase in antisocial-behaviour (ASB) from the small, but significant, percentage of those students that are inconsiderate of others and in some streets – during term time – parking has become almost impossible as students, college staff and residents compete for parking spaces.

Each of these problems was foreseen by residents more than ten years ago when the university first revealed details of its ‘Masterplan’ and, when Runnymede Borough Council subsequently granted planning permission for the expansion of the college campus, it acknowledged that ‘the needs of the University had to be balanced against the interests of the communities of Egham and Englefield Green.’  The interests of those communities have, though, been largely ignored by the senior management of Royal Holloway since.

Plans for additional parking and further purpose built student accommodation were quietly dropped as management pressed on in its quest to increase student numbers and save money and we now face a situation of unsustainable expansion in an environment that is far too small to accommodate the university’s current aims.

In 2022 the Planning Policy Department of Runnymede Borough Council produced a report on HMOs and acknowledged the huge disparity in the numbers of HMOs in Egham and Englefield Green compared with other wards in the borough.  The report also commented on the adverse effects that these high concentrations can have such as the exclusion of local families, loss of family-orientated services such as schools, and a general decline in the appearance of these areas.

None of this is, of course, the fault of the students themselves: most are hard-working, considerate, contribute to the community through endeavours such as volunteering, and provide handsome profits for landlords and many other local businesses.  However, Royal Holloway’s expansion has also attracted an increase in ‘bad apples’ and in 2022 the Borough Commander’s presentation to the Runnymede Crime and Disorder Committee confirmed that Student ASB around Royal Holloway was recognised by Surrey Police as an ASB hotspot.

All through this period of expansion there has, inevitably, been a rising tide of complaints from residents: many have had their lives blighted by antisocial behaviour and felt that they had been left with no option but to leave the area as their reports were not managed effectively by the university.  Community meetings where residents could voice their concerns were stopped by the university and replaced with platitudes such as ‘Our relationship with our wider community is important to us’ and ‘We take being a good neighbour seriously’ on the university’s website.  And now, after increasing its student numbers to some 11,000, the university has a new strategy of increasing student numbers even further by what it calls a ‘modest’ 25% to 15,000!  So, the problems that we experience now are unlikely to get any better.

We believe that the college’s senior management should acknowledge the problems caused to residents, take more responsibility for addressing them and put plans in place to mitigate them.

This website aspires to be a source of information for residents directly affected by these issues and those simply interested in them for the sake of the community.  It also includes some practical information on how to report issues and news items concerning related developments that occur from time to time.

We recognise that there are many other issues affecting some, or all, of us but we do not intend to address those here: we are committing our resources to just this one subject as it is probably the single biggest local issue impacting so many lives in both Egham and Englefield Green.  For those other concerns, we already have two very good residents’ associations: the Englefield Green Village Residents’ Association and the Egham Residents’ Association and we whole-heartedly recommend these to you.

In conclusion, we believe that we need a better Royal Holloway and not a bigger Royal Holloway.