Imperial College London is to build its biggest student accommodation scheme yet after buying half of Essential Living’s landmark build-to-rent (BTR) development The Perfume Factory in Acton, west London - in a deal set to boost the project’s end development value from £200m to around £250m.

Perfume factory

The university, which is believed to have paid around £30m for the land, will bring forward plans for a new halls of residence of around 700 student flats on the 2.8-acre former Elizabeth Arden factory site on Wales Farm Road, next to North Acton station.

Meanwhile, Essential Living will submit a fresh application for around 450 units on the site, bringing the total number of residential units to 1,150. It gained planning for 534 rental units after buying the site in its entirety in 2014 for £28m.

Essential Living will use the proceeds from the sale to target future site acquisitions and build on its development pipeline of more than £1bn.

Its first BTR scheme, in Islington, opened last September and the company has two further developments opening in April. Three more schemes are due to complete in 2018 and 2019 across London. The developer also has a project in Brentford.

Initial plans for The Perfume Factory included two residential towers, one of 33 storeys and one of 27 storeys, which were due for completion in 2019, alongside 70,000 sq ft of commercial space. The two parties are yet to decide the exact configuration of the new development, but said it would also feature “extensive commercial and leisure space”.

Diversifying the BTR community

The scheme is located close to the Old Oak Common regeneration area and will be an 11-minute walk from the nearby Crossrail station, which is due to open in 2018.

“We are delighted to be partnering with one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, which will further diversify the build-to-rent community we are creating at The Perfume Factory,” said Martin Bellinger, chief operating officer at Essential Living.

Rebecca Taylor, managing associate at Mishcon de Reya, who advised Essential Living, added: “This deal underscores the level of demand for well-connected sites in London. Developing one of the country’s largest build to rent schemes side by side with Imperial will create a truly diverse new community that will no doubt attract further investment into Old Oak Common.”

Imperial’s biggest student living scheme at the moment, Woodward Buildings, is less than two minutes’ walk from The Perfume Factory and consists of 690 beds.

In total, the university has nearly 3,200 student beds located across 11 undergraduate halls of residence in London as well as townhouses near its main campus in South Kensington and a postgraduate student campus in Berkshire.

The university has invested heavily in new premises in recent years, predominantly in a new £3bn campus at White City, in west London, which will comprise around 3.2m sq ft of development including three new research hubs.