The University of Sussex has spent over £264,294 in architect fees and legal fees on the Campus Masterplan since its inception in 2012, The Badger can reveal.
In reply to a Freedom of Information request by Students’ Union Communications Officer, Michael Segalov, the University disclosed that they have paid a total of £102,594 for legal advice in relation to the Campus Masterplan, including fees incurred in revising the framework and advice sought in appealing the plan’s rejection by the local authority.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee threw out the £500 million expansion plan in June and after seeking legal counsel. The University management officially submitted their appeal against the rejection in December last year.
In a separate Freedom of Information request filled to the University by The Badger, it was also revealed that the University paid Architect Design Partnerships (ADP), the architecture firm tasked with crafting the campus modernisation plan, a total of £161,700 across the last three years for developing the plan.
Of this amount, £125,700 was charged to the University by ADP since the 2012/13 financial year in architect fees for constructing the layout for the Campus Masterplan, as well £24,000 for a psychical model of what the University of Sussex campus would look like after the project’s completion.
The University also paid ADP £12,000 for producing a 5 minute CGI fly-through video of the Masterplan, which is posted on the University website, labeled a waste by many.
The University defended its decision to allocate thousands of pounds worth of funds on pursuing its Masterplan ambitions as “part of the running of the University”.
If the University’s appeal to the planning inspectorate proves unsuccessful, they will face accusations of squandering thousands of pounds of University funds on a centrepiece plan that didn’t come to fruition.
When questioned why they spent so much money on architect and legal fees at a time when staff are dissatisfied with their wage rise, a University spokesperson said: “The Campus Masterplan is a key component of the University’s longterm strategy.
“As part of this, we want to ensure that we have the best possible services and facilities for our students and staff and to accommodate any future growth.
“These facilities range from new teaching and research rooms (and in some cases buildings) to high-quality accommodation for our students as well as new administration and social facilities for the Students’ Union. All of these have associated development and operational costs and are part of the running of the University.”
Michael Segalov, Students’ Union Communications Officer, commented: “The University continues to pursue an agenda of growth in student numbers, without seriously listening to the views and concerns of students and staff.
“The Masterplan has still not been approved by the local authorities, and to a great extent it’s not been approved by students and staff at Sussex.
“This is a huge amount of money to be spent on legal fees and architects, which could have been better used improving teaching and learning, scholarships, or paying the lowest paid staff a fairer wage.”
The Badger contacted Sussex UCU, the local trade union branch, to ask for their view on the spending, but did not reply at the time of publishing.
Planning permission to carry out the Campus Masterplan was refused by lo- cal councillors in 2014 on the grounds that the scale of the final design would create a “dense urban environment” and a growing student expansion could have detrimental effects on the city’s housing stock.
The University claims that the plan would be worth a £500million invest- ment in the local economy and see the number of students expand to 18,000 by 2018.
A public hearing concerning the University’s appeal is expected to be held within the next few months, with the final verdict to be presented in the sum- mer.