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Discussions about a new Students’ Union building are starting to take place as the University looks to how it delivers a £9,000 a year student experience.
It had been speculated that LUSU could be moved into the old Sports Centre once that goes out of service over the summer. It now appears the University is more likely to fund a completely new purpose-built LUSU building over the next five years.
The issue of student space has been a key issue in recent years. The initial idea of using the old Sports Centre has been overtaken by the idea of a new Activities Hub.
91% of students surveyed by LUSU thought that it was important for the Union to provide new space for their use in order to improve their experience at Lancaster. LUSU’s new Strategic Plan identifies that students feel the current LUSU building (located in Edward Roberts Court, underneath Spar) is “dull” and “unsuitable”.
“We believe you deserve to benefit from a significant development to create a space that you want to be in,” says the Strategic Plan.
Although this is still very much a proposal at the current time, LUSU say in the Plan that they are “expecting to work jointly with the University to provide a twenty-first century, high profile space solution before the end of this plan [in 2014].” Development of the project would be in line with the University’s Masterplan, which sets out possibilities for campus development over the period 2007-17.
LUSU President, Robbie Pickles told SCAN that “there is a suggestion floating around University top floor at the moment that a new LUSU building (Activities Hub) should be planned and created in the 2014-15 timeslot.”
Pickles was confident that the proposal would go ahead: “This idea has yet to be developed but is very much in favour and will very likely come to fruition.”
As the new Sports Centre has been brought towards completion, and with a possible LUSU office space now ruled out, speculation has surrounded the future use of the existing complex. In January 2011, LUSU President Robbie Pickles told SCAN that a proposal was under development in conjunction with the Facilities Department which outlined “the need for better space in light of the modern [educational] environment for student experience.”
At the time, this proposal included the consideration that the old Sports Centre might provide the desired space solution. Head of Facilities Mark Swindlehurst then confirmed that LUSU’s proposal was indeed one of several under consideration.
However, this is now unlikely. Speaking in Week Seven, Pickles said: “At present there are no plans for the use of the building. Rumours that it might be used as student [or] societies space are no longer especially relevant – any new LUSU space would likely be located elsewhere.”
The Facilities Department did not respond to SCAN’s attempts to contact them, so the exact state of discussions regarding the building is unclear. University Press Officer Vicky Tyrrell was only able to confirm “that there is no decision yet.”
Pickles did venture a couple of suggestions: “it is likely that the Engineering Department will soon need to look at options for new space and may choose to investigate the area as it is [situated] opposite,” he said.
“It could also be considered for Management School space but this is unlikely I feel as it has just been extended in the opposite direction.”
Amongst students their were suggestions that the old Sports Centre could be used for music facilities or a nurses’ station. Most respondents however referred to the idea of it being made available for student activities. Sophie Corlett, a second year County student said: “I heard LUSU wanted to use it for […] societies; I think it would be really useful for something like that as societies have nowhere to meet where they can actually discuss things.”
Another County student, Sarah Corfield, added that “it can sometimes be hard to find a place to meet as a society or club if you do not want to be in a lecture theatre. Places like Furness SCR, which is right by the bar and has comfy seats [and] has projector facilities, are often block-booked, so are hard to get hold of.