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Disruption caused by Spine developments are costing some on-campus businesses up to 70% of their sales, with the University failing to provide any compensation for the impact of rerouting thousands of students away from the traditional routes.
The university’s multi-million pound development is intended to “rejuvenate what is arguably one of the most used ‘rooms’ on the Lancaster University campus” according to the official website.
“The aim of the project is to bring the kilometre-long walkway into the 21st Century, to provide a vibrant, light, safe, weather protected route, offering a variety of environments along its length, reinforcing its identity as the main campus thoroughfare. Although it is currently used as a route for many people to get from one end of the campus to the other, the vision is for something much more”
But the disruption is causing some ripple effects. Student Ambassadors complain of the struggle to sell a non-existent Spine to visiting prospective students. The cost of the redesign raises eyebrows at a time when first year students are unexpectedly having their tuition fees raised by £250 per year. And crucially, campus businesses are being affected as their customers are directed along distant pathways. Kamran Naderi, proprietor of Pizzetta Republic, spoke to SCAN to explain.
“People keep asking me when they see me on campus if we are still open. The business has been affected 60-70% on the pizza side. . It’s easier on the coffee side because the customers on the coffee side are after the product as obviously they cannot get it anywhere else. The coffee enthusiasts who understand coffee, I’m surprised they can find their way here, a while ago there was a complication in the back as well”
As any current student living east of Bowland college knows, the Spine section outside Pizzetta Republic and Trevor bar has been replaced by an inaccessible muddy landscape. Although the restaurant can still be reached through a not overly obvious backdoor in the laundrette, clearly the effect on casual custom has been devastating.
“People just having a snack, they find it very hard to get in,” Nadira explains, “There should be more visibility, the University is trying, we are in the process of doing it, but it’s delayed because this situation has continued for two months. We are making serious efforts to remedy that but for two or three months we have lost out and that cannot be recouped”
“Initial estimation was six weeks from the 15th of December, but obviously that’s not going to be the case. So I mean realistically it’s going to go more or less to Easter before we have it back. Even then the construction will just move down the spine and it will be other businesses being affected”
Sitting in the restaurant looking out at a panoramic vista of mud and idle digging machines, it is easy to see the case for the University cutting rent for the duration of the disruption – for the moment the affected businesses are not in a prime commercial position.
Head of Commercial Services, Jo Hardman, said that: “The University aims to minimise the impact of works on all users on campus and has had discussions with individual tenants about how to mitigate the impact on their business whilst the Spine Remodelling Project is underway. We have provided signage and communications support where necessary.
The University has had no claim from any tenants for loss of business to date.”
But Nadira points out: “It’s not just us – University catering establishments (like Trevor) are equally suffering. Unfortunately I think the university is departmentalised, so the compensation that they might offer us or free rent period that they might offer us is only a fraction of what they are spending out there. But because it goes under someone else the departments don’t want to lose money. If a person is in charge of income for the University they hardly want to compromise, while in reality there is millions being spent on the Spine”
“Last two weeks they have made an effort to publicise, we need to make banners and things like that but its been very bad. I think the universities been a victim of people moving – the person who was supposed to handle this left at the wrong time”
With developments scheduled to continue for another year and a half other campus businesses will take their turn in the firing lines of reduced profit, but it seems there is no plan in place to solve the issue. July 2018 is the official end date of the design the spine project and its disruption. Until then, the university remains Spine-less.