University halts work on £100m Copperas Hill

Liverpool John Moores University cited “significantly increased costs” as it announced that it was stopping work on the £100m refurbishment of the former Royal Mail sorting office at Copperas Hill.

LJMU bought the 280,000 sq ft building and its surrounding three-acre site in 2011 from Royal Mail. Lendlease has been on site since last year, stripping back the building to its steel and concrete frame to allow for its expansion into a 355,000 sq ft multi-use student facility, designed by BDP.

However, a leaked email from Vice Chancellor Nigel Weatherill told staff that costs in the project had risen by 35% in the past year.

When plans for the scheme were first announced in 2014, the project cost was cited at £70m. This had increased to £100m by 2015.

A statement from the university said: “Liverpool John Moores University has announced it will be revising plans for the Copperas Hill development due to changes in the external environment which have resulted in significantly increased costs.

“The university has taken the decision to consider new design proposals for the site after deciding that the additional funds needed for the major refurbishment of the Royal Mail building would have a significant impact on the student experience, and would affect plans for redevelopment elsewhere on the LJMU estate.

“The university remains committed to the Copperas Hill site being a major catalyst development for students and the City of Liverpool and will propose new plans for the site early in the New Year. LJMU also reaffirms the University’s intention to move away from the IM Marsh site in Aigburth and bring all students into the centre of Liverpool.”

The facility was supposed to complete in time for the 2018 academic year, and was intended to accommodate a number of university functions, including three libraries, teaching areas, sports facilities, its World of Work Careers Centre, Student Advice & Wellbeing, Student Administration, and Teaching & Learning Academy.

It is understood that Lendlease is still in possession of the site.

Arcadis is project manager, Sweett Group consultant and employer agent, Curtins civil and structural engineer, Arup building services engineer. All members of the project team declined or were unavailable to comment.

Copperas Hill is the second major North West university project to be halted this year due to rising construction costs. In May, the University of Manchester and development partner Mubadala Development Company “mutually ended” their deal to deliver the £175m rebuild of student halls in Fallowfield, due to construction inflation issues. The university has now upped its project budget to £250m, and today announced that it has shortlisted five contractors to build the scheme’s first phase. The architect is also BDP.

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