Environmental centre in £750m university vision

YORK University is planning to create a new complex for environmental research as part of its ambitious £750m vision to double the size of its campus.

Its Heslington East site could become home to a new centre which would bring together experts in environmental science, low carbon innovations, social sciences and archaeology.

The university is also considering finding ways of having academics and businesses working side-by-side on campus in future years.

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Around £200m has already been invested on the Heslington East campus to provide new buildings for the departments of Computer Science, Theatre, Film and Television and the York Law and Management Schools,

The campus is also home to the £20m Ron Cooke Hub – a building which supports start-up businesses and allows academics from different disciplines to work together on research.

Since November 2010 more than 500 businesses have made use of its facilities and that of the neighbouring Catalyst Building, run by York Science Park, which has been set up to allow companies in their early stages to develop.

Now the university is planning for the future development of Heslington East which over the next 20 years could double the size of York’s overall campus.

Elizabeth Heaps, the university’s pro vice chancellor for estates and strategic projects told the Yorkshire Post that one plan was to bring together expertise in different types of environmental teaching and research.

She said: “We are looking at whether a complex can be created to build on the huge strengths we have in environmental science and research.

“This would incorporate environmental research and the teaching aspect of social sciences.

“It is a concept at this stage but it could include our environment department, the York Environmental Sustainability Institute (YESI), the Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF), and our bio-archaeology staff.”

She said that the new development could also be built in a way that promoted sustainability.

YESI has been created to ensure that York’s researchers can operate in “an inter-disciplinary” setting to undertake the work needed to tackle major environmental issues.

The CLCF is a research centre, focusing on low carbon innovation, which was formed last year by universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York. Ms Heaps also said the university could look to build on the way of working established in the Ron Cooke Hub which has seen entrepreneurs and academics working side by side.

York Science Park, which houses more than 100 companies in science and technology sectors, is already established next to York University’s old campus – now known as Heslington West,

However Ms Heaps said that rather than having business ventures and academic departments in neighbouring buildings, the university was looking to develop ways in which they could share the same spaces within the new campus.

“There is a good synergy that can be created between academics and knowledge-based businesses,” she said.

In the short term the university is in the process of building a new halls of residence building on the Heslington East site which will allow its Langwith College to relocate from the old campus to a new development with 650 bedrooms in corridors, flats and town-houses.

The new building is set to open in autumn 2012. The university is also building the York Sports Village, a new £9m facility which will be open to students, staff, and the public.

The first phase will feature a competition-standard eight lane 25 metre pool, a learner pool, full- size 3G Astroturf pitch and three further five-a-side pitches. Indoor facilities include a 100-station computerised fitness suite, three specialist treatment rooms, sauna, steam rooms and a cafeteria.