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After months of financial wrangling and disappointments the proposed plans for the refurbishment of Bowland Main have finally been given the go ahead.
Work is expected to begin in July this year, after Graduation. The new social space should be opened in time for Freshers’ Week 2011. It is expected to cost around £8.8 million and will replicate the buildings in County South.
B and C floors in Bowland Main will be completely cleared. Offices and student flats on these floors will be revamped, providing a modernised living space for students. Rooms will remain standard, with shared bathrooms, and are still expected to be the cheapest on campus. Rent costs will rise but only in line with the improved standards of accommodation available.
As Bowland Principal Joe Thornberry observes, Bowland is the only bar that has had no money spent on it in recent years. It has not been decorated since it first opened in 1967, which many feel make it extremely dated compared to the other college bars. The same is true of the accommodation, which still contains the original 1960s furniture and décor. When the university was founded Bowland College only had around 200 students, whereas there are now close to 1000.
There are plans to temporarily rejuvenate the bar over the Easter holidays, with a minor facelift set to cost in the region of £20,000 for the repainting of the JCR and games room, as well as some replacement furniture.
Bowland JCR Executive President, Kath Embling, said of this rejuvenation: “I think the minor alterations will give the bar and JCR area a lift it deserves while we wait for the greater changes.”
Although the project has been on the cards for more than two years, it has been beset by problems. When plans were first drawn up in 2007 they were meant to coincide with the development of the Learning Zone, and were designed to create a large social space, including a cafe, for Bowland students.
The new Bowland facilities were originally supposed to open in September 2009, at the same time as the Learning Zone. However, delays in the construction of the Learning Zone and the financial crisis that hit soon afterwards meant that Bowland’s refurbishment was pushed back even further, and eventually scrapped.
There were also concerns of non-completion in time for Freshers’ Week if the project was started in the summer. As Thornberry pointed out, when Grizedale was left without a bar for the 2008/2009 academic year students became apathetic towards college activities.
Bowland’s social space, including the bar and JCR, is expected to remain the same until the summer of 2011. The area will be painted over the holidays, the carpets will be replaced, and new furniture will be brought in, although it is not expected that there will be a great amount of structural work carried out. There are plans for a small coffee counter in the courtyard, possibly run by Costa Coffee or Starbucks, although this is still far from certain.
The response from the college principal and students to the finalised plans has been overwhelmingly positive. Thornberry was quick to state that Bowland students deserve a new social space, after months of deliberations.
“We want to retain a traditional bar; students treat the college as their home and we want to retain this cosiness. At the moment the bar is small and run down, and it isn’t what students want,” he said. “There has been frustration from the students that it has taken so long, but also an acknowledgement that we need to get it right. Bowland students deserve to have some money spent on their college.”
According to Bowland College Office there will be no students living in Bowland Main in the 2010/2011 academic year, whilst refurbishment is being carried out. The new rooms should be available to incoming students in September 2011.