By Lily O'Donovan, Fourth Year French and Russian
The University of Bristol have finally released an update on the progress of the new Temple Quarter Campus. Since 2016 the wheels for the Temple Quarters Campus have been in motion with planning permission granted in 2018. The initial completion date was set to be 2022, then it was pushed back to 2023. Now, as a result of lockdown, the project may not be finished till as late as 2025.
According to the update released this week, the university is ‘recalibrating’ the project timeline. Therefore, construction on the main Cattle Market Road site will not start until summer of 2022. The delays to construction will push back the opening of the campus until the latter half of 2025.
University of Bristol sets out next steps for Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus developments: Bristol’s Temple Quarter and St Philip’s Marsh areas will be transformed, as part of an ambitious vision outlined by Bristol City Council and partners earlier… https://t.co/2rsIaOZhpe pic.twitter.com/2h3oF2zuVm— FE News - The #FutureofEducation News Channel (@FENews) April 8, 2021
In addition to updating the university community about the delays to the timeline, the update also established changes made to the design of the campus. Primarily, the statement set out that the main academic building set to be built on Cattle Market Road has been redesigned. COVID has changed the way we all work so the redesigns will future proof the building by making the layout much more flexible.
Although the progress of the project has certainly been delayed by the pandemic, the university is hopeful that the Avon Street part of the development will be able to open by early 2022. However, these changes to the original plans for the campus will be subject to planning approval.
Photos taken in March 2021 demonstrate the current status of the building works. Preparatory work on sites such as the former Royal Mail Sorting Office and Kawasaki Drive have continued throughout the pandemic although progress appears to be slow.
As pressure increases upon the university to provide study spaces, and accommodation for more and more students, these delays will only increase the current burden on the existing university facilities.
Last year, the development project was the subject of debate in parliament. On 14th October 2020 Kerry McCarthy, the labour MP for Bristol East put to the house the need for investment in the Temple Quarters project. McCarthy suggested that ‘construction could start in January 2021 with the campus opening in 2023’. However, she added that ‘because of Covid, without Government support the project will be delayed by at least three to five years.’
Indeed, Epigram has already drawn attention to the increasing financial impact of the project on the university’s increasing debt. Previously universities such as Bristol relied more heavily on government investment. As the government has invested less, Bristol has turned to private investment. In the case of the Temple Quarters Campus the University of Bristol borrowed £200m from Pricoa Capital Group.
It was also recently announced by the council that the local community will be invited to make their contributions on the topic. The Temple Quarters regeneration is a much wider project than the University of Bristol’s new campus and is part of the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, which was announced by the government in March 2011. It will also involve planned refurbishments of the Bristol Temple Meads station itself, a new riverside park, and new neighbourhoods in the St Phillips’s Marsh. In particular, the improvements to the station should double its passenger capacity and improve transport links from the station around the city.
The focus of University of Bristol’s marketing for the new development is the university’s role as a civic university, which is one that engages with the local area, and local community. Teaching, research, and accommodation will all play a role in the new campus. Indeed, one of the key services which will be moving to the new campus is the university law clinic. Interestingly, the campus will be run as a car-free development with a clear focus on sustainability. Furthermore, according to the development’s website, the financial and employment benefit for the region is estimated to be £626m.
While the updated timeline for the project indicates significant delays, it is reassuring to know that the construction is still in progress after an extended period without any communication from the university about the campus.
Image Credit: Epigram / Lily O'Donovan