Bramber House, currently under construction. Photo: Tom Chadwick

The university has begun accepting bids from supermarket firms to occupy a new retail space on the lower floor of Bramber House. The building will close in April and will then be refurbished.

The Students’ Union’s York House shop will also close, but not until the end of the summer term. The Students’ Union plans to make a bid in conjunction with the Co-Operative as a way of replacing the old York House store.

The £9million refurbishment, which is part of the university’s drive to create a high street experience on campus, will see the arrival of a 3000sq foot supermarket as well as two restaurants, one on the ground floor and one on the first floor, both catering to various types of diners.

The university is hoping to have the development finished by the end of the summer term, with the lot open for any company to bid for.

The Students’ Union explains that not winning the bid would be financially difficult, as they would be forced  to make cuts in other areas. The union estimates that they could lose between 10 to 15 percent which equates to between £100,000 and £150,000 a year.

Without this income the union believes that it would either have to be given a considerable amount of extra money on top of its current block grant of £625,000 a year or make drastic cuts to services.

The university said: “It has always been part of the plan for Bramber House to have a larger, better supermarket at the south end of the building.

“At present we are seeking, through professional advisers, initial expressions of interest. The companies expressing interest will be sent a pack and invited to submit a formal bid.

“The bids received will be assessed by a Procurement Board and shortlisted companies called to make a presentation and answer questions. The Board will then make a decision.”

It was initially believed that the Students’ Union would be offered the lot before any effort was made to bring in an outside company. However, the university felt that the union would not be able to run the supermarket independently.

The Students’ Union commented: “The union is worried that the university have offered out an open tender for the Bramber House supermarket given that it will directly replace two of our outlets.

“If the union were to lose the tender process this would result in a massive financial blow that would have a hugely detrimental effect on the services we could offer to students.

“However, in conjunction with the Co-op we have put in a great bid that we hope will be beneficial to both students and the union.”
The Students’ Union has felt the need to work in conjunction with the Co-op due to the expense of starting a supermarket by themselves.

It is believed that around £400,000 is required as start up capital. The Co-op would keep the majority of the profits made from the shop but license the union to run it.

The union has voiced its intention to staff the shop with almost entirely student staff, something that cannot be guaranteed with any other company.

The union will have to waive its right to place limitations on what is sold in the shop. This means that the campus-wide boycott of Coca-Cola and Israeli products will not apply to the new supermarket.

The university have initially been favourable about the union’s plans. Money will not be the only factor taken into consideration when the decision is made between now and next spring.

The university will also be looking for who will provide the best service and fit into life on campus as well as maintaining continuity with the high street experience the university wants to deliver on campus.

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