340 objections received in response to Glasgow University expansion plans

Credit: Ashley Stebbings – site of Western Infirmary

Hamish Morrison
Reporter

Glasgow City Council has received 340 objections in response to plans to incorporate the site of the Western Infirmary into Glasgow University’s Gilmorehill campus. The plans, expected to cost approximately £450 million over five years, would include a new Learning and Teaching Hub for the University in addition to retail lots, hotels, sports and recreation facilities, a nursery and student accommodation.

A number of low grade buildings will be demolished to facilitate a public square which will connect to Byres Road. Listed buildings on the site will be refurbished and incorporated into the design. The plans are still at early stages, but have received general support from the council and are expected to go to a full hearing in the near future.

Local business owners and residents have filed a number of complaints to the council. They claim that an increase in retail space will put unnecessary additional pressure on existing businesses in the area. There are also fears about what the development will mean for air quality, traffic and the already strained parking situation.

The plans could potentially result in the demolition of the Gardner Institute, the site of the UK’s first acute stroke unit, which campaigners highlight as being a significant building in the history of British medicine.

In a report to the council, the University promised to include pleasant, safe, cross campus routes for pedestrians and cyclists. Martha Wardrop, Scottish Green party councillor for Hillhead, informed The Glasgow Guardian that the University has also pledged to replace any trees cut down to make way for construction on a 1:1 basis.

In light of these promises made to the council, Wardrop’s main concerns are now for the impact on local businesses, with more people turning to internet shopping, more shops are only going to increase pressure on existing businesses in what is already a competitive area. Wardrop welcomed the plans for a crèche and the proposed sports facilities, but said that more investment is needed in existing footpaths and cycle lanes.

The proposals would see a 14-acre extension to the Gilmorehill campus extending down to meet the newly refurbished Kelvinhall. The square would also be available for public events and functions.

In the report presented to the council, the University claimed that 2,500 jobs would be created in the building stages and that it has the potential for a £130 million boost to the local economy, in addition to creating an inspiring and transformative campus which will allow the university to compete in the world market and attract the best staff and students.

SRC president Ameer Ibrahim said: “We believe the campus expansion will not only be positive for our University Community, but from a broadly more civic perspective, will be a positive development in developing the area for the local community and the wider city.”

A spokesperson for the University said: “The campus development provides an opportunity for regeneration of the Church Street / Byres road end of the West End. The University has over the last four and a half years engaged extensively with the West End community to understand their expectations of the development and their concerns. The masterplan reflects many of the comments and views heard both from the University community and the West End community.

“The application was considered by the Council at a pre-determination hearing of the City’s Planning Committee held in January 2017.

“The concerns that had been raised, regarding loss of some trees adjacent to Kelvingrove Park and impact of the small amount of retail and catering proposed were considered. Those with concerns were able to make representation to the committee who debated these points in detail. After consideration the committee approved the proposals.

“The Court of the University of Glasgow gave its formal approval for a revised capital plan for the development of the main campus on Wednesday, December 14, 2016. The initial financial envelope of around £450m will be spent over the next five years and is part of a wider £1bn investment, including significant spend on refurbishing and improving the existing estate. The University is currently completing the procurement process for the delivery partner and hope to start work very shortly.

“This will be one of the biggest educational infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history.”

Correction: This article originally noted the boost to the economy as £13 billion, not £130 million.