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Report of the Council on the provision of accommodation at Clarkson Road for a Centre for Mathematical Sciences

The COUNCIL beg leave to report to the University as follows:

1. In May 1997 (Reporter, 1996-97, p. 703) the Council published a Report proposing a development to accommodate the Faculty of Mathematics at Clarkson Road. The Director of Estate Management was authorized to apply for planning consent for the development, and the Council undertook to report again to the Regent House when sufficient funds had been identified for the first phase of the project to proceed. The scheme proposed in the Report comprised eight pavilions, linked to a central core, together with two free-standing buildings; one of the latter, designated Pavilions 9 and 10, was to contain facilities similar to those in the other pavilions, while the other was to accommodate the proposed Physical Sciences and Technology Library. A planning application was lodged in July 1997; after detailed consultation with the planning authorities, who were concerned to ensure that the eastern part of the site should not be overdeveloped, it was agreed to omit Pavilions 9 and 10 from the proposals. In order to produce a more balanced design for the site, the library was repositioned in the north-east corner, and a gatehouse was added in the location previously proposed for the library. The new arrangement is shown in the accompanying plan. The planning application was resubmitted in this revised form in November 1997, and after further consultations planning consent has now been received.

2. Full planning permission will be subject to a number of conditions; in addition, the University will be required to contribute funds for traffic calming, cycle route improvements, and a residents' parking scheme. The total cost of these measures is £140,000; this sum has been incorporated in the infrastructure costs of the development.

3. In paragraph 4 of their 1997 Report the Council explained the terms on which the University would be able to acquire a long lease of the Clarkson Road site. The University has been granted an option to take a lease of the site from St John's College for 175 years, with an option to renew this lease for a further period of 175 years, at a premium, representing the open market value, to be agreed. Exercise of the first option is conditional on (i) the grant of detailed planning permission for the whole site, (ii) approval by the Finance Committee of the Council of the terms of the planning permission, and (iii) a decision by the University to construct buildings on the site having a gross external area of not less than 2,500 square metres. The first two of these three conditions have now been satisfied. The third will be satisfied if the Regent House approves the recommendations of the present Report. The formal exercise of the option and agreement on the premium will therefore be possible when the Regent House has agreed to take the development forward, though work cannot commence until negotiations over the lease have been satisfactorily concluded.

4. As explained in paragraph 7 of the 1997 Report, construction will be phased in accordance with the availability of funds. For the present, detailed plans are being taken to tender stage for a first phase consisting of Pavilions 1, 2, and 5, together with the whole of the central core. Provision can be made for Pavilion 3 to be added to the contract should sufficient funds become available. The phasing of the plan in this way avoids incurring the abortive costs of piecemeal development while in no way committing the University to proceeding with the whole of the first phase if funds are not available.

5. The total estimated cost of the development, still at prices current in the second quarter of 1996, is £39m (as against £47.085m previously reported); this takes into account the omission of Pavilions 9 and 10 and an expected saving of VAT on the library. The revised cost of constructing Pavilions 1, 2, and 5 and the whole central core is £15.66m, including fees, VAT, and estimated inflation. The infrastructure costs are £2.06m in addition to that sum. The construction cost, at about £1,300 a square metre, compares favourably with other University schemes in central Cambridge and with 'prestige' Science Park schemes. As explained in paragraph 9 of the 1997 Report, the unattributable site infrastructure costs will be met from the Chest. The sum of £5m has been earmarked in the Land Fund to meet the cost of acquiring the site and providing the infrastructure.

6. The estimated running costs of the first phase are £345,000 a year. The construction of the first phase will not release the whole of the premises currently occupied by Mathematics at the Old Press Site, and for that reason it is difficult to make comparisons on running costs. However, the running cost of the new building is expected to be £48 per sq.m. a year, as against £52 for the present premises.

7. Good progress has been made with fund raising for the project. Donations received from outside the University amount to £8.92m, including exceptional gifts of £2.5m from Dr and Mrs Hans Rausing, £2.5m from Mr Nick Corfield, £2.5m from the Garfield Weston Foundation, and £1m from the Wolfson Foundation. Colleges of the University have provided £1.56m, including a contribution of £1.02m from St John's College and £0.5m from Trinity College. As previously reported, a grant of £3m has been allocated by the Council to the project from funds made available by the University Press for purposes consonant with those of the Press. Together with interest which has accrued, a total of £13.89m has been raised. This leaves £1.77m still to be raised to meet the cost of the proposed first phase of the development, although this figure is reduced to £1.25m if future interest is taken into account. It is hoped that this gap will soon be bridged, and indeed the Council believe that there is a good prospect of raising the further £3.3m needed for Pavilion 3.

8. In order to avoid delaying the programme, it is proposed, subject to the successful conclusion of negotiations over the lease, that a contract should be let for enabling works, consisting of the bulk basement excavation, site hoarding, and certain infrastructure and landscaping works. Subject to the approval of the recommendations of this Report, work on the first phase will proceed thereafter according to the level of funds identified at the time. The entire contract, including the enabling works, will be undertaken by Lynxvale Limited, as a design-build project.

9. Sufficient funds are now available to meet the cost of the enabling works; it is expected that by the time these have been completed funding will have been identified to meet the full cost of the proposed first phase (including possibly Pavilion 3). For this reason the Council recommend that approval should now be given for works to commence. They will report further to the University on the later stages of the project, including the library.

10. The Council recommend:

I. That approval be given for the construction, in phases, of a Centre for Mathematical Sciences at Clarkson Road in accordance with the scheme described in this Report, the first phase to consist of not less than 2,500 square metres.

II. That the Treasurer be authorized to accept tenders for the works in phases, according to the available funding.

16 February 1998


[Plan of the development - 33Kb GIF file]

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Cambridge University Reporter, 18th February 1998
Copyright © 1998 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.