A MAJOR rethink on student accommodation and planning of the cityscape is being urged after Liverpool John Moores University scrapped its vision for a £100m super campus in the city centre.
In January the university unveiled an ambitious plan, which it described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to transform the former 30,000 sq ft Royal Mail sorting office, at Copperas Hill. The central hub was set to house LJMU’s library, teaching and student services with food, retail and exhibition space, landscaped grounds and rooftop sports pitches.
But owing to “changes in the external environment” - leading to spiralling costs adding £35 million to the bill - it has confirmed it is revising its ideas and the sorting office refurbishment - at the heart of the plan - is “no longer a viable option.”
Lib Dem Councillor Richard Kemp points to the Brexit vote says the city needs to re-examine its student accommodation and university strategy - and hold a summit with the University of Liverpool, Liverpool Hope as well as LJMU to find a way forward.
He said: "The scrapping of the plan by Liverpool JMU should send a warning note to our whole economy, especially those who still bringing proposals for student flats to our city centre.
“I have been warning since the Brexit vote that the number of students locally and nationally would reduce. As late as this Tuesday I warned of a slowdown when yet another student block was approved by the planning committee. The city must now work with the three universities and developers to plan for a future that is not as bright as the one we had all hoped for.”
Liverpool JMU said in a statement: “The university has taken the decision to consider new design proposals for the site after deciding that the additional funds needed for the major refurbishment of the Royal Mail building would have a significant impact on the student experience, and would affect plans for redevelopment elsewhere on the LJMU estate,
“The university remains committed to the Copperas Hill site being a major catalyst development for students and the city of Liverpool and will propose new plans for the site early in the New Year. LJMU also reaffirms the university's intention to move away from the IM Marsh site in Aigburth and bring all students into the centre of Liverpool.”
It now appears that the new campus, in whatever form, will not be available until the summer of 2019.
Details of the decision were contained in an email sent to staff by Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Nigel Weatherill who said: “The reconstruction of the Royal Mail building is a large and complicated project, initially costed and budgeted at over £100m. However, since December 2015 the increase in cost is now in the order of 35 percent.”
He added: “The external environment has changed and, in addition to the cost, there is an increased overall risk to the project over the construction period. Projected completion would be spring 2019.
“These significant increases in cost and risk are for one single large building. Finding the additional funds to meet the multi-million pound increase in cost would have a significant impact on our university. Whilst there is no doubt that this would have been an exciting building, we have to also set alongside this our determination to invest in other areas of the university.
“We are also aware that we can enhance our estate, providing similar facilities, through a different route at far less risk in today’s environment.
“Given this position, and with my full support and recommendation, the governors have made the decision that the proposed plan for the refurbishment of the Royal Mail building is no longer a viable option. However, they remain committed in their support to develop the Copperas Hill site.”