The new Students’ Union- set to constructed by September 2013 – has encountered delays in the clearing of the building’s planning application, reulting in an additional £400,000 being spent on design and other fees. With delays predicted to be up to 12 months, the new building will not be ready for use until 2014. The University has already agreed to spend £8.8 million on the build, which inludes taxes, fees and infrastructure.
The South Gloucestershire Planning Department have growing concerns over the visual impact of the new SU building, after the local council highlighted a Grade II listed building – the UWE Farmhouse – in close proximity to the plot. The UWE Farmhouse is home to the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Team.
The announcement on the Students’ Union website states: “Much work is going into overcoming the Council’s concerns, including minor changes to its visual appearance and exact proximity.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UWE, John Rushforth, has confirmed that a revised design has been developed that accommodates the Council’s concerns. “We were disappointed that the Council did not identify any significant concerns regarding our approach to heritage when we were discussing concepts with them,” states Rushforth. “It did not arise at all in any of the public consultations events that we held. It was only when we had made a commitment and developed a detailed design that they raised the issue.
Unfortunately it has meant we have lost a year and we will have to spend an additional £400,000.”
The new Students’ Union building is a part of UWE’s “masterplan”, which also contains the development of the controversial UWE stadium, a transport hub and the Faculty of Environment and Technology. The aim of the construction is to have the UWE Students’ Union at the ‘heart’ of the new campus, instead of at its current location in F Block on Frenchay Campus.
Whilst UWE were ‘convinced that the original design would have provided very effective links to the campus’, Rushforth states: “We are taking advantage of the delay to integrate more closely these works into [the] developments to the heart of the campus, and it may be possible to recoup some of that additional cost. The main thing to remember however, at no time have we been prepared to compromise on our desire for a first class building that meets the needs of the students’ union. “
When Western Eye spoke with Nick Loughlin – UWE’s Travel Smart Project Manager – earlier on in the year, he disclosed that he wasn’t entirely sure when the transport hub would be built, but he confirmed that it would not be in time for when the new Students’ Union building was to be built in 2013.
Former UWESU’s President, Colin Offler, stated in May’s edition of the Western Eye that he was ‘confident [the SU] could meet the challenge’, although the projected dates were tight. It would appear that if the Students’ Union building was to be constructed by September 2013, there would not have been anything surrounding the build to support its development.
Students are still able to submit their ideas about what they would like to see in the new building. Visit www.uwesu.org/lets-build/and submit ideas to have your say.