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Tim Harris, director at property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle: The students may have gone home for the summer but there is a buzz of activity at the University of Bath

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Written by:   | Posted 07-August-2013 11:50

Bath has always been relatively well insulated from the effects of the recession thanks to its strong tourism industry and its desirability as a place to live and work.

But it’s the higher education sector which is currently flying the flag for the city’s local economy.

Tim Harris, Director at Jones Lang LaSalle, is project managing a range of new developments at the University of Bath and explains why they are benefiting the local community and businesses as well as students and staff.

THE University of Bath is undergoing a massive redevelopment programme to provide new teaching space, student accommodation and a new Centre for the Arts. The proposals include new buildings and refurbishment of existing facilities.

The £10.9m Centre for the Arts is due to open in autumn 2014 and will include a theatre, performance and rehearsal studios, gallery and teaching facilities. This exciting new building will be a facility for the whole region to enjoy as it will stage a public programme of arts, events and activities.

A new state-of-the art teaching facility, The Chancellors’ Building, will open this autumn doubling the number of large scale lecture theatres on campus with up to 2,000 students being able to use the building at any one time. This will mark an important milestone in the overall project. Also due for completion this autumn is the first phase of refurbishment of 1 West, a key academic building providing increased high quality learning and research space for students and staff.

A new student accommodation complex which will provide 708 additional ensuite bedrooms divided into 75 flats across two buildings is also under construction with completion due in summer 2014. As well as offering high quality accommodation to University students, it will help relieve the pressure for rented accommodation in the city of Bath.

But it’s not just students and the local community who will reap the benefits of this development. It’s good news for the construction industry too. An estimated £62 million is being spent on the construction element of the new buildings and the manpower and construction materials, where possible, are being sourced from the Bath area and its surroundings. So it’s local businesses that are largely benefitting. The construction projects are also using locally based national contractors which are significant contributors to the regional economy including Vinci, Laing O’Rourke, Leadbitter, and Cowlin.

The University are supported by a framework of retained consultants which includes many local consultants not only JLL’s Bristol and Bath offices, but well-known local architects like Fielden Clegg, Stride Treglown, and ADP of Yeovil. Other well-known local consultants like Mann Williams, Gleeds, Northcroft, Hoare Lee, Integrale, Bailey Partnership, and Kendall Kingscott are also involved.

Before the recession hit, office and residential building dominated the construction pipeline but there is no longer the same demand for office space and therefore speculative building has dramatically decreased. In Bath, it’s the higher education sector which has stepped up to fill this gap.

There’s a good reason for all of this. The University of Bath is ranked in the top ten of every national league table and demand for places has continued to rise. The University’s investment will further enhance its ability to deliver an outstanding student experience, world-class research facilities, an inspiring working environment and cultural benefits for the wider community. It is also a statement of confidence in its future.

This is great news for Bath. The ripple effect can and will continue to be felt right across the city, from the local people who work on the developments to the local communities that will enjoy the facilities to the many students who will come to Bath as a result, helping to sustain the city’s thriving economy.

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