The Electoral Commission informs me that between 2002 and 2007 a number of English local authorities piloted the use of alternative locations as polling stations, although these did not include student unions or other university and college premises. The locations included railway stations, supermarkets, libraries and other local authority venues.
The Commission's statutory evaluation of the pilot schemes concluded that the convenience of voting at alternative locations was appreciated by some voters, although the impact on turnout was minimal.
At present, the legislation provides that returning officers may use certain publicly-funded schools or “rooms funded out of any rate” free of charge as premises for polling stations. The Electoral Commission has recommended that returning officers should be permitted to use a wider range of publicly-funded buildings as polling stations.