In Depth: Penglais Farm moving in date announced

THE UNIVERSITY has announced to students that the initial phase of the Penglais Farm development is nearing completion, and that they now have set a moving-in date of between the 21st and the 25th January 2015.

In an email to students, the Accomodation Office stated that: “We recognise that moving accommodation can be disruptive, and we will be working with Balfour Beatty to ensure that your move will be as easy as possible. We are therefore proposing that, in order to minimise impact on your studies and your exams, we facilitate your move to Fferm Penglais at the end of the exam period, between 21-25 January 2015. We will be assisting with your move, and removal firms will be used to carry your belongings from your current room to your new room at Fferm Penglais. This will be at no cost to you or the University. We will be in touch to confirm arrangements shortly.”

Penglais Farm

Alex Tanton

The University also stated that it is  “committed to ensuring that the accommodation provided at Fferm Penglais is of the highest possible standard, and has not compromised on the quality in order to ensure the quickest delivery date”. The Accommodation office have advocated that they are “confident that the accommodation provided will be amongst the best available at any University in the UK.” 

A spokesperson for the Students’ Union stated that: “The Students’ Union is extremely disappointed to hear that Fferm Penglais will not be opening on the date that was agreed on between Balfour Beatty and Aberystwyth University. The SU was clear in our statement on 04/08/2014 that we were concerned about the revised timetable for opening Fferm Penglais and that we felt that this would cause inconvenience to some students. Our statement was therefore, true. SU officers have visited the site and we agree with the University’s recent statement that they are “committed to ensuring that the accommodation provided at Fferm Penglais is of the highest possible standard, and has not compromised on the quality in order to ensure the quickest delivery date.” We are in agreement that students should not move to Fferm Penglais until it is finished and of the highest quality. The SU have requested that Aberystwyth University show us the independent report from the independent certifier, (whom was responsible for updating the University on Fferm Penglais developments) from August 2014. The University has already responded offering to meet and exchange this information and for us to meet the Fferm Penglais team.

At University Governance Committees, of which we attend, Aberystwyth University reported that they were, following advice from Balfour Beatty and others that the programme for completion of Fferm Penglais (with an initial date of 31st of October from Balfour Beatty and a ‘long stop’ date finishing on the 15th of December, 2014) was achievable. However, it was reported to us in the University Governance Committees on the 24th of September and 21st of November that risks remain for this completion date. We are disappointed therefore that the University have failed to share their concerns with students on the risks of date completion, of which they were made aware in mid-November. This delaying is not acceptable. Indefinitely the Students’ Union recognises that the blame for delays at Fferm Penglais is fully upon Balfour Beatty. We would like to assure students that the Students’ Union will be continuing to work with the University to ensure clear and constant communications is done with the students who are affected.”

Reaction to the University’s communication with student throughout the process has been mixed, with 3rd year historian Charlotte Yapp stating that “I understand that it wasn’t the University’s fault, but when it comes down to informing the students they were terrible. They didnt keep us informed, it was always the students nagging at them to inform us of what was going on, they needed to know just as much as we needed to know”.

Similarly, Sports scientist Charles Ing suggested that “the university should have really been more realistic with its proposed move in times, it is clear when a job is months away but the university have taken the approach of “it is nearly complete, just listen for updates” which clearly was not the case at the start of year, and has left a lot of people disappointed, especially when they are left in temporary accommodation”.

The contractors Balfour Beatty provided a statement for the email stating that: “Balfour Beatty is sorry for the delay in moving in but assure you that we have worked to deliver a high standard of quality at Fferm Penglais and hope that you will be delighted with your new accommodation.”

This is not the first instance of the company apologising for the delay. Back at the beginning of October, Aber Student Media reported that, after several months of speculation, the building works would not be completed on time, with Balfour Beatty informing the University that they were running behind schedule and estimating that the first residences and central hub would be ready in November, 10 weeks later than the entire build was originally due to be completed. Now, due to the revised date, the first phase of the project will be at least 18 weeks behind schedule. They blamed the initial delays on “circumstances beyond its control including severe weather conditions at the start of the year, as well as an uplift in construction activity which put pressure on the supply chain”.

Speaking to The Courier, third year geography student Christopher-Cameron McNaught stated;

“I think that the January moving-in suggestion is an optimistic target considering the setbacks they have had already. I feel they should have compensated everyone and moved everyone permanently for the year. This will cause disruption to many that may have thought it would be a 2-3 week delay and students may have formed relationships with their housemates. I moved permanently knowing that the moving in date would be likely pushed back more and more. I have formed friendships in my house and I personally feel the disruption would cause unnecessary drama and disturb an individuals sense of place.”

The accommodation office once again apologised for any inconvenience caused by the delay and asked any students with queries or questions to get in contact with them.