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RMJM’s Cumbria campus plans shelved

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RMJM’s scheme for a new University of Cumbria campus in Carlisle has been shelved just two months after the practice landed the prize project

RMJM saw off competition from Sheppard Robson and ADP to win the bid in December last year alongside Arup and Buro Happold. However, the flagship scheme has been sent back to the drawing board because the local development agency refuses to pay decontamination costs.

As a result the Edinburgh-based architectural giant’s £70 million plans to redevelop the 18,580m² Caldew Riverside site into a series of ‘university squares’ and a new bridge will be put on hold for at least 10 years, and may even be scrapped.

Colin Moses, design principal at RMJM said: ‘We are obviously bitterly disappointed with this outcome. The RMJM team invested a significant amount of time and energy to generate strong, winning ideas.

‘It is frustrating that the RIBA apparently orchestrated an intense competition process for the three shortlisted practices without doing thorough “due diligence” on the financial stability of the institution.’

The situation came to a head when the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) said it would not cough up the £3.8 million bill needed to make the former gasworks site safe without an agreed end user.

The riverside plot contains traces of toxic substances including arsenic, boron, benzene, naphthalene and phenol.

A spokesperson for the university said: ‘[The] university’s primary aim is to ensure immediate financial sustainability and ensure that the proposed new business plan focuses on taking the right action to shape the institution so it is the right size and structure. This [includes] not proceeding on the Caldew development for the duration of this new business plan.’

The Caldew Riverside site campus was part of a £100 million estates programme planned to provide new facilities for the university’s art, business, social science and sports faculties.

The news comes after the Learning and Skills Council withdrew £25 million of funding from the University of Cumbria.

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