UCL has sights set on new East End home

Bloomsbury institution's £500 million 'masterplan' includes campus near Olympic site. John Gill reports

November 24, 2011

Credit: Alamy
Eastern promise: UCL says its expansion plans will have a significant regenerative impact on the surrounding areas

University College London has earmarked a site for a new campus next to the Olympic Park in the East End as part of a major expansion plan.

Under the terms of a deal announced on 23 November, UCL has six months to develop its plans for the site, which include postgraduate teaching and research and accommodation for students and staff, but no undergraduate teaching.

The college described the availability of the site in Newham and the regeneration associated with the Olympic Games as a "serious and potentially one-off opportunity for long-term growth for UCL".

The proposals follow the publication last week of the Bloomsbury Masterplan, which sets out a £500 million vision for developing UCL's estate.

The strategy was compiled after Malcolm Grant, UCL's provost, published a "white paper" earlier this year, in which he argued that it was essential for the institution to expand beyond its "natural" Bloomsbury home as part of a 10-year growth plan.

The paper says that "not all activity currently based in central London requires such a location, nor is it possible for much of it to expand in its existing space".

Andrew Grainger, UCL's director of estates, said that the 23-acre Stratford site could be used to house engineering, architecture, health and life sciences facilities, for which modern buildings would be more appropriate than those of the older estate.

It could also be the location for new accommodation, including for faculty and their families who might find it difficult to afford housing in central London.

Mr Grainger said that while the development of the site would clearly require "a lot of money", there was the possibility of integrating commercial and other residential elements to help finance the campus.

Asked how much bigger UCL wanted to be, he said: "If you look at what we're doing with the Bloomsbury Masterplan we think, in broad terms, we can accommodate probably 20 per cent growth over the 10-year period with the £500 million investment we're looking to put in.

"But when we get to that stage, that's about capacity, and even within that, if we had a major development opportunity like the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, we would struggle to accommodate it here.

"So this is about enabling continued incremental growth, as well as relocating things that are better situated in modern buildings, and the opportunity to provide one-offs of the nature of the Wellcome Centre."

In a briefing sent to staff, UCL says that it is "not a done deal" and that an "academic stakeholder group" had been established to assist in scrutinising and developing the plans. It adds that it is unlikely that the campus will open for at least five years.

If it does go ahead, the development would put UCL in proximity to the University of East London, which already has a campus in Stratford.

But Mr Grainger said there should not be a conflict: "We wouldn't see this as a threat to [other universities] at all, and the regenerative impact of UCL in Stratford and Newham could be very significant, which would be to the gain of everyone."


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