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Durham University

University and City: Growing together

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Preserving and enhancing the City we share

(28 February 2019)

Professor Stuart Corbridge, our Vice-Chancellor, writes on our lived environment initiative: how we are working to preserve and enhance the City we all share.

This is my ninth column for these pages. Over the past months I’ve written about how we’re supporting the local economy and encouraging our students to be good citizens. I have also written about how we share our facilities and expertise for the good of local communities, supporting young people from all backgrounds through their education and life journeys.

Mainly, I have tried to explain why we’re growing the University: in short, so that we can strengthen the positive contribution we make to society. And along the way I’ve explored how we play our part in City life, including contributing to its cultural scene, visitor appeal and the local offer for children and families. 

All my columns are on these Community web pages, where you can also read updates from our Community Engagement Task Force. We set up the Task Force to help the University and local groups work together better and find out more about our many community-focused projects and initiatives.

Recently we published a round-up of some of the highlights of our community work over the past year. I’d highly recommend a look. Please follow this link.

The lived environment

One area that I haven’t yet written about, but which is a key focus of the Task Force, is our work on Durham’s lived environment. By this, I mean how we develop our buildings and spaces to preserve and enhance the City as the very special place it is to live, work and study, and how we support wider efforts to do the same.

I hope each of our current major developments will play a part in this. Upgrading our Maiden Castle sports complex will allow more local clubs to use top-class facilities. Our new Teaching and Learning Centre on South Road will support the local economy by hosting major conferences. Our new Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science building will have a dedicated space to support business innovation. And our Mount Oswald development will include an events hall and a sports pitch which will be available to the local community. 

A new home for our Business School

Last week we announced our aspiration – subject to finances and planning – to build a new home for our Business School at Elvet Waterside. Our Business School is already one of the top 50 in Europe but we believe the new facility would allow us to be even better.

This project will also help the local economy. It represents £70m of direct investment and will support regeneration, help North East businesses connect across the world and raise Durham’s profile as a conference venue.

The core of the proposed site was formerly home to Elvet Baths. Although the swimming pool closed over ten years ago, the building holds special memories for many City residents. I know many of you will have learned to swim there or watched your children do so.

That’s why we’re so keen to bring the site back into use, rather than have it standing idle alongside other derelict buildings. We aim to provide a development that people can enjoy, including through landscaped open spaces, a picturesque riverside location and an on-site coffee shop.

Tell us what you think

We believe our proposals will achieve these aims but we want to know what you think. An important part of our lived environment focus is to better involve community views in our new buildings and developments. I would encourage you to come along, if you possibly can, to our public consultation event at Durham Town Hall on Wednesday 6 March, from 1pm to 7pm. We’ve chosen a city centre venue and opening times covering both daytime and evening to make the event as accessible as possible.

If you can’t make that date, we’re holding a similar event at the Palatine Centre on Thursday 7 March, from noon to 6pm.

Representatives from our Estates and Facilities team and our architects will be ready to answer your questions at both events and listen to your views.

If you can’t make either date, further information will be made available on the project web page. As ever, we look forward to hearing your views.

This article was originally published in the Durham Advertiser.