Local voices will be heard says university as £1billion campus plans are submitted

By Ian Marland at

W est End communities will help shape the redevelopment of the University of Glasgow’s new campus for many years to come, according to a senior director.

Ann Allen, director of estates and buildings at the university, says dialogue with community councils and businesses is vital to identifying concerns and opportunities around the biggest capital investment in the area in a lifetime.

Ann was speaking as the university prepares to submit its £1billion masterplan for the redevelopment of the former Western Infirmary site, which it took possession of in April.

The blueprint outlining a 10-year programme of investment will land with city planners this week along with the first of the university’s detailed proposals.

That plan is for a new learning and teaching hub next to the Boyd Orr Building on University Avenue, work on which is expected to begin later this year.

Watch: Communities will have their say as the university progresses its £1bn plans over the next decade.

Ann also explained why the university was including retail and hotel proposals in its vision for the site, and how it would engage with the local community on those proposals.

“Because we are submitting the masterplan doesn’t mean we stop the discussions and the consultation,” Ann told Glasgow West End Today.

“We are very, very keen to hear from the people of the West End in terms of what their concerns are but also how they see the opportunities.

“This is about a major investment in this part of Glasgow and everyone should benefit – the University and the West End community.”

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Open: A major part of the masterplan is about opening up the campus site to the public

The ambitious campus project will expand the University’s footprint on the city by a quarter over the next decade, creating 2,500 jobs and pouring millions directly into the local economy.

Six major new buildings are proposed, along with a new public square linking Byres Road and Dumbarton Road.

The capital outlay is far in excess of the money spent on the Commonwealth Games in recent years. Money for the new campus is coming mainly from university reserves and revenue.

Even though a process of consultation began three years ago, the university says dialogue with community councils, councillors, and businesses, along with heritage, conservation and wildlife groups will continue for many years to come.

Ann said: “A key principle is to make the campus far more porous and we see it as being a really important link between Byres Road and Dumbarton Road.

“If you look at the plans, part of it is about opening up what was the Western Infirmary site and bringing routes through that.

“That for me is a way of linking different communities together. We want those communities to feel that they have got access on to the campus and they can move through it, and therefore they should have a say in terms of what we are doing.”

What the masterplan involves:

* A new public square with new pedestrian and cycle links

* Six major buildings: including a teaching and learning hub; research and innovation hub; a social justice hub; Institute of Health and Wellbeing, and a new centre for the College of Arts

* Commercial opportunities, including a hotel, restaurant, bars and cafes

* Refurbishment of five listed buildings; The Chapel, the Outpatients building; the Macgregor building; the Tennent Institute; and the Anderson College.

* Refurbishment of the Boyd Orr building and the Joseph Black building.

* Refurbishment of the Adam Smith Business School within the Gilbert Scott building

Talking: Estates and buildings director Ann Allen says discussions with local communities began three years ago

Weekend information sessions have been held with the area’s community councils and further engagement is planned for later in the year.

Ann said: “For me, engagement with the communities is terribly important.

“I may have views on what is important, for example really supporting the southern end of Byres Road, which is the quieter end, and which I think is impacted by the fact that Church Street is a dead frontage.

“However, I probably don’t get all that right, so therefore that engagement with the communities gives us an opportunity to listen to people who have lived in this area for a long time, understand how the area works, and who will be able to spell out where they see the opportunities.

“It’s also the time when we really understand what the issues are.

“So, I would expect that people will be concerned about disruption as we start on a major construction site.

“But what we got out of a consultation a couple of weeks ago is actually it’s not just noise that people are concerned about it’s vibration. Now that’s really helpful.

“And there was a lot of discussion about dust. So again, it’s not just noise, it’s vibration, and it’s dust: those are all things that we can address.

“If we are not talking to communities I might be addressing the wrong things.”

Closed: The university took possession of the former Western Infirmary site in April.

She went on: “It’s important that we keep those dialogues going. There are great groups that we can talk to; the community councils, they’re pivotal in that; the councillors for the city are also important.

“But there are also a number of other groups that operate, for example the BID – (Byres Road) Business Improvement District – is one that we actively want to engage with.

“There are also conservation groups and wildlife groups. All of those we want to give them the opportunity to have their say.

“We might not always be able to accommodate everyone’s requirements – and sometimes among those groups they have different requirements which might actually be at divergence with each other – but we are here to listen.

“We’ll then make the decisions in terms of where we can and where we can’t support those communities, but without knowing what they need I won’t make those right decisions.”

On the hotel and mixed retail plans, the university says the proposals would serve the needs of its staff and students and the wider city community.

Ann said: “One of the things that is important to the masterplan is that we open up Church Street, which is dead frontage at the moment.

“There’s a really important link between Botanic Gardens and the top of Byres Road, coming down towards Finnieston, to the river and across into the Hydro. And we sit at the corner of that.

Plans: The masterplan is currently on public view at the Gilmorehill university campus

“We are looking at mixed use there for that corner. We are looking at retail opportunities. We want to look at catering opportunities, and we think there is great demand for a hotel on that site.

“It’s one of the things that we as a university need; we hold many conferences which is one of things that we sell our international profile on.

“But actually within Glasgow these days there is a shortage of hotels and we think there is an opportunity here on that corner to do something around that sort of mixed use.

“We also want to bring in some form of small business office facilities because key to us is developing that as an innovation quarter.

“We do amazing research in this university. That translates in to small businesses which employ people. We need to make sure that we have got the facilities to accommodate those spin out businesses.”

On public engagement, Ann said: “I probably don’t have a conventional definition of the West End, but for me it’s any community that touches the boundary of the university.

“They are the communities I want to engage with – so areas like Hyndland, Partick, Woodside, Kelvingrove, Yorkhill.

“All of those community councils are councils we want to engage with. We want to make sure that their communities have the opportunity to understand what we are doing but also to have input in to that and hopefully to have a benefit from the campus.”