Oliver Price | News Manager
Students hoping to live in newly built accommodations on College Lane have been told, less than a month before they were due to move in, that they would have to live in temporary accommodation due to halls not quite being finished in time for arrivals weekend. Most students who will be doing so, have now moved into these temporary accommodations.
The University of Hertfordshire has made significant investments over the past few years to deliver 2500 new rooms and 500 refurbished rooms to College Lane in a programme that finishes in September 2016. Of that, according to Andrew May, Director of Estates at the University, “almost 1500 [new rooms] have been successfully delivered and all 500 have been refurbished.”
“What we are trying to deliver for this year [September 2015],” May informed UniVerse, “is very very roughly about 1000 rooms.”
To date, slightly under a quarter of the rooms have not been finished: “About 770 have been successfully delivered and the remaining 230 will be finished in about a week or two.”
Of the approximately 230 students who do not have their new rooms finished; May stated, “[They] will be moving into the existing halls that we had not demolished… Broad and Coales Halls,” both of which are on the same campus. May said that they were going to stay there for a “week or two.”
However, UniVerse has received prior reports from students , now living in Coales, claiming: “They told me one to four weeks.”
May also made it clear that students were not going to Ridgeview, which is a former off-campus accommodation in Colney Heath. Most students still not housed will be given a room at the Mercure Oak Hotel, which is next to the College Lane Campus. The University have said they will be sending staff to the hotel on a daily basis.
Credit: Bill Ahmed
May continued that every student who applied on time [for clearing] will be housed,” in University organised accommodation, that being halls or the aforementioned temporary accommodations.
When asked what caused the delay, he said it was “categorically not the case” that builders have not been working over the past few weeks and, “we’ve [University of Hertfordshire] had between five and seven hundred people a day on campus for the last months.”
May then went on to say, “The plan was always to phase the delivery as we are doing.”
“We’re navigating a number of issues and part and parcel of that is things like Broad and Coales being made available in the event that the original plan doesn’t quite work out.”
May also said that; “We would like to go on record to thank Bouygues our building partners who we believe have worked tirelessly to get the campus ready for the start of term.”
When May was asked to elaborate about whether there was anything specific that caused the delay he didn’t give a specific reason.
He did however reiterate that there was a “three year delivery programme, it was always going to be delivered in phases with various blocks coming over at various times.”
UniVerse also talked to students affected by the delay. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, talked about a problem with lack of communication on the University’s part: “I can understand if they told us a month before they did, my friend going to Cardiff is in the same situation but he knew from around results day not like two weeks before move in day.”
This student is referring to the fact that they, along with many other students affected, were told about the delay and need to move into temporary accommodation on the 8th of September, approximately two and a half weeks before they were due to move in.
When asked about the short notice, Geraldine Ward, the Dean of Students said: “Once we were certain that the rooms were going to be delayed all students were notified and advised of the alternative arrangements.
“The Student Centre were on hand during that time for answering any queries or questions and to reassure students and their families or partners.”
“Ideally,” she added, “We would have wanted all the rooms to be ready… but everyone’s been working hard to make sure that happened but the contingency plan would have been put in place, and we always put them in place with any new building on campus.
“The Student Centre, Student Wellbeing, and staff at Herts Students’ Union have all contributed to the alternative arrangements to minimise the disruption to students.”
Ward added that for, “Anything at all [students] should contact the Student Support Team. All those contacts are given to them in their temporary accommodation, they’re available 24 hours a day 365 days a year.”
As well as not being told about the delay until two and a half weeks before moving day, the previously mentioned student told UniVerse that they were not told the details of their move until “Tuesday [22nd September] night,” four days before they were due to move in.
Rebekah Rogers, a third year Biological Sciences student said that: “Communications between students and Residential Allocations has been appalling.”
In response to a question about the apparent lack of communication, Geraldine Ward said that; “The Student Centre’s been on hand, they let the students know as soon as we knew… they would have got the information as soon as it was available.”
Ward said to contact the Student Support Team if any help is needed, “no matter how big or small.” Contact details for the Student Support Team can be found in the mini-guides handed out to freshers.
When asked about whether the University would be compensated for the delayed accommodations, Andrew May said: “The contract says what the builders have got to build and by when, then there are provisions in that contract for failure to comply… and yes, there are damages that are recoverable.
“The more important question I think, is how will that be then passed onto the students, and the position there is that the temporary accommodation either on campus… or in hotels will be charged at £42 per week which is significantly and materially lower than it otherwise would have been to reflect the disruption that’s caused.
“Students in hotels will also be provided with food vouchers which can be used to purchase food on campus, and of course the University will also be able to continue to provide the usual pastoral care and welfare support and all of the University facilities that are available to all of the students.”
Jack Amos, President of Hertfordshire Students’ Union, talked about how he and HSU had been helping with the situation:
“As a lot of students were inconvenienced by the delays in the building work, I negotiated a large cut in the rent for students who were temporarily housed in Broad and Coales halls. At the Students’ Union we have had a lot of staff and volunteers around the halls of residence to create a nice sense of community, and on Monday 28th and Wednesday 30th we hosted free BBQs for students living in halls.”
Grainne O’Monghain, Vice President for Democracy and Services at Herts Students’ Union, gave her opinion on the delay:
“I understand that in large building works such as the new halls there can be delays, though I feel this should have been encompassed within the time allotted during planning so as to ensure halls would have been completed before students were moving in or even early. It is a very large project which is to be completed in a very short period of time and has numerous variables, none the less the allotted time for this project is very tight.”
As the situation develops it will become clear whether students will be rehoused into permanent accommodation swiftly.