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The University Campus has been covered in a tide of scaffolding, with construction work on multi-million pound investments set to continue over the remainder of this year and into the future.
350,000 square foot is predicted to be the eventual size of Lancaster’s Health Innovation Campus, with construction beginning on an 80,000 square foot innovation hub that is predicted to finish in September 2019. Building on the land to the north of the university, the campus is predicted to eventually generate two thousand jobs, with a special research focus on digital innovation in healthcare. The project is projected to cost £41 million, with £15 million coming from Lancaster University and the remaining coming from the European Union’s regional growth funds.
The installation of a giant digital screen overlooking Alexandra Square, is also taking place at the beginning of 2018. Combined with the construction of a new atrium for the library, and the south Spine reconstruction works, Alexandra Square has been a hub of the many construction works taking place on campus. The screen, which will be used to display content from the University and from the Students Unions, is believed to cost around £50,000 according to an advertisement placed by the University on a bidding website in 2017. At the time of writing the University did not confirm the cost, but stressed that the screen will be a useful asset for students.
The company contracted by the University for the Health Innovation Campus, BAM Construction, is also carrying out the LUMS Space project, which plans to give the Lancaster University Management School the space required for it to become a world leading section of the university. Phased over four years, the project will revamp the entirety of the LUMS premises with cutting edge facilities.
Meanwhile reconstruction of the Spine continues, although the finish date is unlikely to align with the optimistic initial assessment of an end date of spring 2018. The project, which had an initial budget of £13 million, is intended to rejuvenate “arguably the most used room on campus”. Last year’s development along the South Spine allegedly caused the restaurant Pizzetta Republic to lose up to 70% of its pizza sales, though the restaurant is once more accessible. But with the construction works continually moving along the Spine, business after business has being disrupted in turn, although some such as the Deli say they have benefited from so called “construction tourists”.
The sums of money involved in these constructions are not inconsiderable for Lancaster, which had a budget of £267 million in the last financial year. Some students have raised concerns about the cumulative effect of these changes, which when taken as a whole may have hampered the accessibility of the university.
However Lancaster is not alone in pouring money into construction, with university spending on campus infrastructure rising 43% in 2016, and total nationwide spending projected to reach £2 billion in the period from 2017 to 2020.