In 2015, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), announced its intention to create historic and transformational change at its Preston Campus through a £200 million Campus Masterplan development.
At the heart of the scheme a new Student Centre, linked with a new public square, aims to draw the University closer to the City. UCLan’s long-term vision is to spark a major focus on regeneration and business investment in the University quarter, reinforce the University’s ties to the local community and create wider benefits for Preston and beyond.
But to acknowledge its importance, there’s a need to understand why the Masterplan is essential for a University that has grown organically over a period of 190 years. David Taylor, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University Board summarised the need for a change to the campus. “The University developed generically over a long period of time, from an Institute to a College to a Polytechnic to a University. Consequently, we didn’t have any sense of place or focus for the campus.
“So starting from a low base we commissioned Allies & Morrison to complete the Masterplan exercise for us. A lot of great information went into that – consulting with staff, students, public consultations, and they came up with a really outstanding plan of attack, and in a really short period of time we’ve started to deliver it.
“What we also have to make people aware of is that the Masterplan is funded by UCLan and we’re keeping that £200 million investment here in the City. The expenditure in these difficult times is quite a brave thing to do but it will be a gamechanger – not just for us but for Preston too.”
The Masterplan is undoubtedly a transformational project for the University and it’s already starting to take shape. Work has finished on two new £8.15m social spaces designed by award-winning architecture practice AHR, working alongside a UCLan design team comprising staff and students to establish input and ownership from the people who will use the spaces. The new facilities have been a huge success with students and staff since they opened last month.
Construction of its £32m Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC), is also progressing well. It will see the University establish itself as a leader in engineering innovation, and will help produce an increase of 500 locally trained graduates per year in areas including aerospace, mechanical and energy technologies and engineering.
The EIC has also been identified as a signature project within Lancashire’s Strategic Economic Plan and has secured £10.5 million via the Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships’ Growth Deal with the Government. The new facility has also received £5.8million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5million from HEFCE’s STEM Capital Fund.
Its jewel in the crown – the £57m Student Centre and Civic Square – has recently received planning approval and will see one of the largest civic spaces developed in England in the last 100 years.
David added: “It really will give us a focus. We’ll look at how the Student Centre links back to St Peter’s Church and the Adelphi area and we’ll align the changes in levels between the square, the EIC and adjoining buildings. The public spaces between will all be beautifully landscaped, cleverly lit and fully accessible for all. It’s going to give us a real sense of place.”
In addition to creating a world-class campus, many in the City see the Masterplan as an opportunity to bring together a number of elements in Preston that have long been disconnected.
David concluded: “Preston is a compact and interesting place but while it’s got lots of building blocks, nobody has ever really put them together. It’s really only in the last two or three years, with the advent of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and CityDeal, that a lot of fantastic initiatives have happened in the City and are leading it to a really promising future. The advantage that our city has compared to say a Manchester or a Liverpool is that they’re vast city centres, whereas Preston is a compact place so it’s easier to enhance. Preston will have a new campus at one end and the core of the city centre at the other and they’re both going to come together to reinvigorate the economy and boost social cohesion.
“It’s our vision that the Masterplan will benefit everyone.”