Work begins on £48m University development
(20 July 2010)
Preparations are underway for work on a landmark £48million development at Durham University.
Contracts have been exchanged between the University and its appointed construction partner, Laing O'Rourke, and work will begin in earnest at the end of this month.
The new development, which is positioned at the edge of the University's Science Site along Stockton Road, in Durham City, will sustain 200 construction jobs in the local economy.
The development will house a major library extension, a new Law School and a student services building to be known as the Palatine Centre.
This is not an expansion of the University, but brings together activities which are currently dispersed across the City into purpose-built facilities. The scheme was granted planning permission by Durham County Council in December 2009 and is due to be completed by September 2012.
The project is a major step forward in the University's long-term strategy to provide sustainable and world-class facilities in line with its standing as a top five UK university. Its buildings in Durham City and at Stockton form one of the most complex and important university estates in the world. There are 63 Grade I and II listed buildings and the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is owned jointly with Durham Cathedral.
The design of the scheme was informed by a two-year programme of consultation with students, staff, local residents and regulatory bodies. The new buildings will have first rate environmental credentials, achieving the recognised BRE Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) 'excellent' standard.
The project will also contribute to the University's Cultural Strategy with public art incorporated into the landscaping proposals - building on the University's contribution to the visitor economy through its attractions at Durham Castle and Palace Green, the Botanic Garden, Oriental Museum and a vibrant student arts and outreach programme.
University Vice-Chancellor and Durham resident, Professor Chris Higgins said: "These new developments are central to Durham University's estates strategy and will be a catalyst for improvements across the City. Our new Law School will build on our renowned academic strengths in this area. Maintaining a world-class library must be at the heart of any major University, and the Palatine Centre brings together student services which are currently scattered around the City.
"The scheme as a whole takes advantage of an under-utilised site to provide a coherent, high-quality new development."
The Stockton Road scheme also releases space elsewhere in the University's City estate to provide facilities which will benefit residents and visitors to Durham's historic core.
An interpretation centre for visitors to the World Heritage Site is being established in the former Almshouses in Owengate on the approach to Palace Green. It opens in Easter 2011 and will be operated by the University and Durham Cathedral in partnership with Durham County Council.
The University's Palace Green Library is being redeveloped to include major public exhibition facilities, the first phase of which will be completed early next year, when Durham celebrates the 25th anniversary of the inscription of the World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The redevelopment, which includes the 17th Century Cosin's Library and the 1960s Pace Library rooms, will provide greater public and scholarly access to the University's special heritage collections. It will also provide a new public exhibition hall to display precious manuscripts and artefacts, including the recovered Shakespeare First Folio.
The reconfiguration of University buildings around Palace Green will extend to the Bailey area. Refurbished accommodation will be provided for Durham's History, Theology, Classics, Philosophy and Music departments. In addition a new £8million energy-efficient heating system is being installed.
The refurbishment of premises at Mountjoy by Miller Constructionto house the University's administrative services, and the enhancement of sports facilities at Maiden Castle are also now underway as part of an ambitious wider estates plan. The new sports complex will house improved indoor facilities, including a rowing tank, and follows the creation last year of a first-class floodlit rubber-crumb pitch, primarily for rugby and lacrosse.
In total, the University's planned works across the estate in the next three years represent an investment in the local economy of more than £55million. Finance for the development work has been secured from a number of sources including capital grants from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and generous philanthropic donations.
Professor Higgins added: "Over the past 150 years our Durham City estate has expanded in a somewhat ad-hoc fashion. This scheme is central to an ambitious development and reconfiguration programme which will transform the University's estate for the benefit of students, staff, local people and visitors from across the world.
"It also reflects the long-term commitment and planning which the University has undertaken to invest in the City and its workforce and the contracts we have now exchanged with our construction partners send a clear declaration that Durham City remains open for business, despite challenging economic circumstances."
Councillor Neil Foster, portfolio holder for regeneration and economic development at Durham County Council said:
"The University is a core partner in our development plans for Durham. The investment it is making complements other important developments in the City - from improvements to our transport infrastructure with the Transit 15 Highways Scheme to the 'Heart of the City' project to redevelop the Market Place and Vennels.
"The jobs which will be created by the University's investment and the benefits to local people of the reconfiguration of the University's estate across the City could not have come at a better time. The new facilities which the University and the Cathedral are providing at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, in partnership with the County Council, will provide important new facilities for residents and support the development of our visitor economy."
John Osborne, Laing O'Rourke's Project Manager, said "The project offers a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Durham University, and working in partnership with them, we look forward to delivering a world class facility."
Further information and images of the University scheme can be found at: www.durham.ac.uk/durham.project/