The University of Sussex’s longstanding plans to construct a new Life Sciences building in the east end of the Science Car Park have been axed, The Badger can report. The building was provisionally approved by the City Council’s planning committee in February 2017, accompanied by optimistic press releases from local councillors and university dons alike.

The original permission, which was formalised in May 2017, stipulated a number of conditions for the development, including detailed drainage plans, biodiversity surveys, and conservation boxes to encourage the roosting of bats. As a ‘planning gain’, the University was required to pay to the council a sum just shy of £150,000 toward using local labour for the development.  

Professors Laurence Pearl and Simon Morley tweeted about the meeting yesterday. Pearl’s tweet read, “After >6 years in planning, and appointment of builder, @SussexUni VC @adamtickell axes ‘landmark’ new buildings for @SussexLifeSci without consultation because it wasn’t his idea.”  Professor Morley said the new building was ‘shot in the head by BREXIT and budget insecurities according to senior admin.’

The University released an article on the official website as staff news, clarifying that ‘the University’s executive group decided to explore options to maximise the use of the building for other science schools.’  Adam Tickell commented, “we have decided to make some changes to the plans and are currently working through this process. “We are committed to Life Sciences and investing in science is a key part of our long-term strategy.”  At the time of writing, this was not released to students.

This change represents something of a volte-face for the University. In January, construction giant Mace was awarded the contract for construction after a public tender process.  On 7 February 2018, the University’s planning agent Parker Dann finally submitted consultant reports to meet planning conditions. University Committee documents show that Mace was due to start work on the site in February 2018. To date, the University has spent 5.6 million pounds on the development. This does not count potential fees that may be incurred as a result of early termination clauses that might be invoked.

The University has not disclosed whether or not it thinks changes to the planning process would be required as part of the change of purpose.

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