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Following a postponement in Week Four of this term, the proposal for the re-design of Alexandra Square was unveiled on Wednesday of Week Five.
Work on the new plans is set to commence in April 2010, starting with the closure of bus stops in the underpass and the clearance of the square paving in Alexandra Square. The re-open of the underpass is estimated to be mid-September, in preparation for the return of students to campus at the beginning of October.
There are two potential options for the plans with the final design yet to be decided upon.
Option One involves a new ramp near the steps heading up towards Bowland, allowing easier wheelchair access as well as double height steps in front of the Learning Zone for seating. There will be seating planters around existing trees as well as entirely new granite paving with a creative design across the span of the whole square, and the covered pathway by Waterstones will be more opened out.
In addition, this option envisages blue LED strips of light along the edge of each of the granite paving slabs, each strip representing a college. The aim of this proposal was to amalgamate the colleges in a place that is central and integral to the university.
Option Two is similar to the first; however the granite paving will be laid out in a different design, and the blue LED lighting will not be installed.
Both options involve a lift in a glazed tower that will descend to the underpass enabling better access for wheelchair users. The underpass itself will be entirely rejuvenated, the entrances to each of the stairwells being transformed into much lighter spaces compared to the current entryways. The new entrance will also include feature walls displaying a bus timetable, notice boards and a payphone.
The construction of the lift pit and shaft is proposed to begin in May along with the construction of the new steps and ramp in front of the Learning Zone and the refurbishment of the stairwells. The waterproofing of the underpass and construction of the feature walls will occur in June. The final components of the re-design will be the new paving in Alexandra Square in July and the installation of the lift and refurbishment of arcade canopies in August.
Option One is believed to be the most popular at the moment, with students feeling it to be the “classier” and “cooler” option. One student said: “I’ve always thought Alexandra Square and the Underpass have needed an overhaul and these plans are even better than what I had in mind.”
Another student commented that though the designs were good, the Underpass would benefit from seating, possibly in the form of a wooden bench that ran the length of the wall between the two stairwells, calling this “A simple construction, [that] would provide much needed seating space without the need for any major construction, [that] would make waiting for the bus much less of a pain.”
“I do think that the new proposed design can only be an improvement as the Underpass is a little dark and I am reluctant to go there at night unless I have to,” added another student.
One student also pointed out that the ramp for wheelchair access should be fitted with a fenced edge, in order to make it totally safe.
It is hoped that these criticisms and praises of the new designs will be taken on by Facilities when work begins on the rejuvenation of the Square and its surrounding area.
Mark Swindlehurst, the university’s Director of Facilities has spoken about the new design of the Square. “The new design for Alexandra Square has addressed many of the issues that were raised during the consultation period in 2009.”
He added: “The most significant element of the [Option One] design is where it brings the colleges of Lancaster University into the heart of its most important space by introducing the lines showing the names of the colleges between their location and the area which they are named after, symbolising very strongly the importance of the collegiate system and demonstrating further the University’s commitment to its colleges.”
He continued to say he felt “the choice of high quality materials and the retention of the simple design will work well.”