Green light for Unite Students’ London and Bristol PBSA schemes

Unite Students will deliver a new east London scheme, plus final planning approval to develop PBSA in one of the UK’s largest regeneration projects in Bristol.

Unite Students' Meridian Square PBSA development in Stratford, London | PBSA News
Unite Students' Meridian Square PBSA development in Stratford, London.

Provider of student accommodation – Unite Students – has received planning approval for Meridian Square, a landmark 952-bed purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) scheme in east London and Freestone Island, a 500-bed PBSA scheme in Bristol.

Situated next to Meridian Steps near Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, the Stratford, London PBSA is a 41-storey tower targeted to complete in 2028.

The Meridian Square scheme in Stratford, which has approval with conditions and is yet to obtain full planning permission, will deliver 1,151m2 of commercial space which will include workspace and a retail area. Part of the space is earmarked for Canning Town-based You Press, a social enterprise for young people and underrepresented communities. 

The plans for the Meridian Square PBSA also include the construction of a new entrance and exit to Stratford Underground Station, providing a positive benefit to the local community by helping to alleviate passenger congestion and improve the area’s infrastructure. 

A total of 333 beds will be let at affordable rents; 30 beds will be in self-contained studio flats while the rest are in shared flats of five to ten bedrooms. One in ten bedrooms will be wheelchair accessible. The planning application was supported by University College London (UCL) and full planning permission is expected later this year.

Unite Students is in the process of confirming a long-term agreement with the university for its students to let many of the beds. This will support the universities recently completed UCL East campus in Stratford. 

Embodied carbon to practical completion is targeted at 730 kgCO2e/m2 (carbon emission equivalent per sqm), showing further progress towards the Group’s 2030 net zero development targets.

Including this project, Unite Students’ total planned investment into Stratford is c£400m. This includes the delivery of 716 new beds and academic space for the London Academy of Excellence at its Hawthorne House property, which is replacing the former office block Jubilee House on Farthingale Walk. 

“Unite Students is leading the PBSA sector, and these London and Bristol developments are unique offerings in their respective cities – two cities where we already have a strong footing and are committed to investing in further. We are excited to get started with construction in the swiftest possible timescale. It is fantastic to have received approval at planning committee for this exciting new Stratford development that will positively contribute to the area’s changing skyline.”

Tom Brewerton, Group Development Director, Unite Students
Unite Students' Freestone Island PBSA development in Bristol | PBSA News
Unite Students’ Freestone Island PBSA development in Bristol.

For the Freestone Island development in Bristol, Unite Students is working in partnership with the University of Bristol through a nomination agreement on the property, which will guarantee rooms for the university’s students. This will assist the university in delivering high quality accommodation to support its growth in the Temple Quarter area of Bristol. The scheme has total development costs of £73m and is set to open in 2026. 

Temple Quarter, in the heart of Bristol, is one of the UK’s largest regeneration projects with 130 hectares of land being redeveloped to create a mixed-use community that includes office and commercial space, as well as pedestrianised green areas, alongside Unite Students’ student housing. The Quarter will be a key contributor to the West of England’s economy by creating new homes, jobs and generating income for the local area.

Unite Students’ development has received full planning approval, delivering 600 student beds at the Marsh Mills site on Feeder Road and the University of Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, where up to 4,600 students will be based on completion. The new PBSA scheme will provide 4,500 sq ft of affordable workspace and will be BREEAM Excellent with EPC Ratings of A across the scheme.

“Bristol is one of the most undersupplied markets in the UK for PBSA and our Freestone Island project provides Unite Students with the opportunity to grow further in the city by providing high quality, value for money rooms for our students and university partners.

“We are trusted by parents, students, and universities to provide quality, safe and affordable accommodation that supports the entire university experience and are committed to delivering our record development pipeline to meet this demand.”

Tom Brewerton, Group Development Director, Unite Students