Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6184

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Vol cxl No 25

pp. 669–684


Report of the Council on the construction of a lift in the Old Schools

The Council begs leave to report to the University as follows:

1. This Report sets out the Council’s consideration and decision regarding the following Grace which has been initiated under Statute A, VIII, 7 by members of the Regent House:

‘That all construction works for a lift into the Regent House Combination Room be removed and the building returned to its former state, and that the Council report, as soon as convenient, to the Regent House with proposals to secure reasonable access to the Combination Room and associated rooms for those unable to use the stairs.’

A list of the signatories is given in Annex A.

2. The Council regrets that the process by which the decision to proceed with the lift was taken led to controversy. It has examined the process and has concluded that arrangements could indeed be improved. It believes that better information available at an early stage of preparing such projects would be of value to members and friends of the University. It makes some suggestions below (paras. 9–11) to improve the position.

3. Statute A, VIII, 9 requires the Council to consider any Grace initiated in this way and either authorize submission to the Regent House or to publish a Report giving reasons for its decision to withhold authorization, and recommending the Regent House to approve that decision. If such a Grace involves expenditure from University funds additional to those already authorized, the Council is required by the Statute to refer it to the Finance Committee (and to any other appropriate body) for advice. If submitting the Grace the Council must at that time publish a statement indicating how it was intended to make provision for the proposed expenditure.

4. After consultation with the Finance Committee the Council has agreed to take the exceptional step of withholding authorization of submission of the initiated Grace and of reporting to the Regent House under the provisions of the Statute, recommending approval of this decision.

5. Expenditure has already been undertaken on the lift, following the decisions set out in the Council’s Notice in reply to the recent Discussion (Reporter, p. 499). This expenditure would be abortive if the lift were to be removed, and there would also be the cost of making good. Were a replacement lift to be provided elsewhere within the Old Schools comparable costs would additionally be incurred. This may however be a hypothetical possibility, since no other location has yet been identified to provide satisfactory access to the Council Room, the Syndicate Room, and the Vice-Chancellor’s office which could meet the requirements of the local planning authority after statutory consultation with English Heritage. The current project meets these requirements.

6. The Finance Committee has advised, as required by the Statutes, that the total abortive cost of the lift installation and reinstatement to original condition would be £352,000. The cost of providing a lift in a new location (if that is a possibility) cannot be estimated exactly, but about £250,000 should be allowed, based on current costs. An allowance for a further archaeological investigation on a new site (which might well be required) may also be needed. The result would be a total cost of about £602,000. When the Finance Committee was consulted there was a balance of £417,000 in the Minor Works Fund. However, this has now been fully committed and hence any further costs regarding the lift would need to be carried forward to 2010–11 as an overspend. Given the very significant budgetary reductions expected in 2010–11, with more severe reductions to follow in 2011–12, any overspend on minor works would have serious consequences. The paper received by the Committee’s Sub-committee is given in Annex B.

7. The statutory advice of the Finance Committee, through its Business Sub-committee, is that expenditure on this scale would be an inappropriate and unnecessary use of limited funds in a very tight financial environment.

8. In these exceptional circumstances, the Council has concluded that it must accept this statutory advice and itself consequently advise the Regent House that it would not be a prudent use of scarce University resources to undo the work which has already been undertaken. The Council is also mindful of the University’s obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 to improve opportunities for, and promote positive attitudes towards, disabled people and to encourage such people to take part in public life. Accordingly, the Council draws attention to the urgent importance of securing disabled access to these areas of the Old Schools.

9. The Council notes that a review, under Statute K, 5, concluded that the decisions taken were not in breach of the relevant provision of Statute F. Nevertheless that Statute may be unclear in some respects, and it might be desirable to clarify it. The Council is therefore referring the point to the scoping study for the possible revision of the Statutes, and Ordinances, which is at present undertaking a review of the scale of amendments which may be desirable (Reporter, p. 486).

10. The Council is asking the Director of Estate Management to make proposals to the Buildings Committee for a process whereby minor works which do not require approval by Grace under the terms of the Statute, but which may nevertheless be of interest or consequence to members of the Regent House, other members of the University, and indeed members of the public and friends of the University, would be appropriately publicized. It has been suggested that the best method would be the publication of a Notice at the site of works, with information, including designs, available at a convenient point near the site (rather than at some inconvenient central point). Periodic lists of such works could also be published in the Reporter. This would not, of course, be instead of compliance with the University Statute where the Statute applied, nor with the proper publicity required for planning applications and applications for listed building consent. Some works can be sensitive for security and confidentiality reasons, and the appropriate level of publicity in such cases would have to be judged accordingly.

11. The Council believes that arrangements of this sort would be of interest to members of the University and others. They would apply particularly to alterations to sites or buildings of architectural, artistic, or historical interest, or which are open to the public (such as, for example, museums, and the Old Schools).

12. The Council therefore recommends:

That approval be given to the Council’s decision to withhold authorization for submission to the Regent House of the initiated Grace, reproduced in Annex A to this Report.

22 March 2010

Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor

Christopher Hum

Mavis McDonald

William Brown

Vanessa Lawrence

Rachael Padman

T. Chigbo

J. F. Li

David Simon

M. J. Daunton

D. Lowry

Joan M. Whitehead

A. M. Donald

Debbie Lowther

Note of dissent

Statute A, VIII, 9(a)(ii) authorizes the Council to block a ‘50-member’ Grace where there are good reasons, such as if the Grace could not legally be implemented or is out of time. The Report that recommended such Graces said ‘the Syndicate envisage that the Council’s authorization would be withheld only on very rare occasions’. We do not think the reasons given in this Report for withholding authorization in this case are admissible reasons.

David Abulafia

M. R. Clark

Ross Anderson

R. J. Dowling

R. J. Barnes

Annex A

The initiated Grace

The undersigned members of the Regent House initiate the following Grace for submission to the Regent House in accordance with Statute A, VIII, 7:

That all construction works for a lift into the Regent House Combination Room be removed and the building returned to its former state, and that the Council report, as soon as convenient, to the Regent House with proposals to secure reasonable access to the Combination Room and associated rooms for those unable to use the stairs.

William M. Adams

J. E. J. Altham

M. Baddeley

J. H. Baker

Zoe Barber

Claire Y. Barlow

Franco Basso

John Benson

Paul Binski

N. J. B. A. Branson

Annabel Brett

C. J. B. Brookes

S. Bucklow

R. H. S. Carpenter

M. Munawar Chaudrhi

David J. Chivers

T. W. Clyne

Margaret Cone

A. J. Crisp

N. R. M. de Lange

K. Edgcombe

R. Featherstone

A. L. R. Findlay

Christopher Forsyth

V. A. C. Gatrell

Roger D. Greeves

Carolyn J.-B. Hammond

Sophie Harrington

D. M. Holburn

D. W. Holton

R. R. Horgan

R. E. Horrox

Peter Hutchinson

Liliana Janik

Peter Johnstone

M. Kendall

Kay Tee Khaw

Frank H. King

Imre Leader

E. S. Leedham-Green

W. Y. Liang

Peter Linehan

J. S. L. McCombie

D. J. McKitterick

N. M. Maclaren

K. J. McNamara

Paul Millett

J. D. Mollon

Jeremy E. Niven

Alex Oliver

W. O’Neill

Susan Oosthuizen

H. Osborn

A. E. Palmer

K. J. Patel

Adrianna I. Pesci

C. Phillips

David Pratt

J. D. Ray

Michael Rice

David J. Riches

Paul Russell

J. Saxl

S. O. Sage

J. Scherpe

M. C. Smith

R. J. Smith

R. J. Stibbs

J. T. Stock

Noël K. Sugimura

R. K. Taplin

Robert Tasker

G. Titmus

S. Wadsley

G. A. Webber

Ruth M. Williams

S. Withington

Renate Woudhuysen

Lucy Wrapson

Annex B

Advice to the Finance Committee




1. Background

A study was carried out by Freeland Rees Roberts, who specialise in Listed Building Works, to establish the best location for a new lift. The study examined six possible locations for the new lift and extensive consultation with English Heritage and the Cambridge City Planning Authority concluded that the most suitable and least intrusive location was for the lift to rise at the north east end of the dias in the Combination Room. The proposal complied with the aspiration that the lift installation should not disturb the medieval walls; in fact the floor through which the lift penetrates dates from 20th century. The proposed installation also follows accepted conservation principles in that any changes to the historic fabric should be reversible without damage.

2. The Resource Management Committee (RMC) at their meeting on 2 July 2008 agreed:

a. a budget of £210k including works, statutory and professional fees, contingency and VAT subject to Cambridge City Council’s Planning Department approval.

b. a warrant should be raised for the full cost as a charge on the Minor Works Fund at a later date.

3. Listed Building Consent was received on 27 March 2009 and Building Regulation Approval was received on 8 September 2009.

4. The project started on site on 28 September 2009 and was due for completion on 22 January 2010. However, the project was stopped to review the position on 29 September 2009, recommencing on 9 November 2009. It is expected to complete in March 2010.

5. The current financial commitment on the project, including all fees and VAT, is £240k which includes additional costs of £30k due to the delays and stoppages. An additional £17k, by separate warrant, has been spent on the archaeological dig as required by the conditions of the Listed Building Consent. That dig took place prior to the Contractor starting on site.

6. In addition to the £240k cost already expended, the cost to remove the lift and reinstate the work to the satisfaction of the City Council Conservation Officer and English Heritage (Listed Building Consent will be required) including all fees and VAT is estimated at £95k. The cost of the lift as manufactured is £43,100 and is included in the £240k current financial commitment. Most parts of the lift cannot be re-used elsewhere.

7. The University’s stated commitment to using the best endeavours to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA) means some form of lift should be provided in the Old Schools to serve the Combination/Syndicate/East Room/Vice-Chancellor’s Office. The study carried out by Freeland Rees Roberts would need to be revisited and an alternative scheme agreed for costing and installation.

8. The total abortive cost of the lift installation and reinstatement of the fabric to its original condition is £352k. The cost to provide a lift in a new location is not known but £250k should be allowed, based on current costs. An allowance for a further archaeological dig to the lift shaft pit should be included giving a total cost, plus potential liability of £602k.

9. The Minor Works Fund at 15 January 2010 has an under commitment of £2.277m with possible future fund requests of £1.860m as reported to the Minor Works Review Group on 21 January 2010. This leaves a balance of £417k.

10. The Committee is invited to note the matters referred to above and to inform the Council accordingly.