25 Delegates from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyers (RICS) visited the Inverness Campus to see the rapid progress of this exemplar project.
Angela Bonney, RICS, PR and Communications Officer (Scotland & Northern Ireland) covers the visit with Keith Bryers, Head of Property and Infrastructure, Highlands and Islands Enterprise:
The Inverness Campus project is one of the most important developments in the Highlands for 30 years; it will drive economic growth in the Highlands and Islands bringing together education, business and the community in a stunning, world-class location on the eastern outskirts of the Highland capital.
The project is being lead by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish Government’s development agency for the northern half of the country.
HIE first announced plans in September 2009 to invest £25m over the following five years to create Inverness Campus on the site of the former Beechwood Farm. This is the largest project HIE has ever undertaken at its own hand. Subsequent building developments may involve investment of a further £300m by partners by 2031.
Phase 1 covers some 120 acres of the 215 acre site and comprises: a new road access close to the A9 trunk road junction at Inshes; internal ‘shared surface’ roads; footways and cycle facilities and links; installation of main services (foul and surface water sewerage, water main, gas, electricity and telecommunications); extensive parkland with hard and soft landscaping; public art, including an island gallery in one of the several ornamental SUDS (Sustainable Drainage System) ponds, along with measures to upgrade the bus service. Future phases will depend on the rate of take up of the first phase but could involve further academic and business space plus opportunities for housing and other developments.
In addition to the initial HIE investment, other expected developments and inward investment in the site, besides the new 21,000 sq m Inverness College UHI building (see below), include some 5,000 sq m for the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) itself, possibly new GP clinic and health-orientated incubation/innovation space; 2,000 sq m Scottish Agricultural College (relocating from out-of-date premises in the city); a c.14,000 sq m social enterprise hotel, a new 6,000 sq m regional sports centre and some 400 student residences.
In spring 2012, some 10 acres of the site were earmarked as one of the Scottish Government's new Life Sciences Enterprise Areas, offering benefits to qualifying businesses including streamlined planning regime, potentially new generation broadband and business rates relief (capped at £55,000 pa for qualifying businesses until 31 March 2017).
The Phase 1 contract was awarded to Morgan Sindall and is programmed to complete in spring 2013; a competition is currently underway for the contract to construct the new SFC-funded Inverness College UHI building on part of the site with the aim of having the new building open for session 2015/16.
The proximity of multiple universities (UHI and, potentially, Stirling and Aberdeen) and key players in the life sciences sector on one site will allow the further development of the area’s health cluster, increasing the economic impact, creating high-quality jobs and create a major centre for innovation and life-long learning. Once fully developed in the 2020s, the site is expected to support up to 6,000 local jobs and generate £38m for the regional economy every year. The campus will be a major source of further growth for Inverness (expected to grow by 27,000 in the next 30 years).
The Inverness Campus aims to achieve high environmental quality ratings; the Masterplan and Design Guidelines have been developed by award-winning architects, 7N, aimed at creating a sustainable 21st Century academic and business environment. Award-winning artist/architect, Lisa MacKenzie, has worked with the HIE team to help bring together the public realm aspects of the project.
Traditionally, 18-25 year-olds have left the area for higher education. Developments on the campus will offer students the opportunity to stay in the region, with the prospect that Inverness will become a true ‘university city'.