A £1bn redevelopment in the heart of Glasgow’s West End, which will result in the construction of a new public square and the creation of up to 3,000 jobs, has been given the go-ahead by councillors.
The principal of the University of Glasgow said the extension to its campus on the 14-acre site of the old Western Infirmary would prove a “major economic driver for the city”, providing a £130m boost to the economy, after the project was granted planning permission.
The 10-year construction plan, hailed by the university as “one of the biggest educational infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history”, will also result in the creation of new shops, bars, cafés and a hotel.
Around £430m will be spent over the next five years on the first phase of the project - part of a wider £1bn investment that will run until 2026, creating between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs during the construction period.
Demolition work is set to begin this summer and among the first improvements will be a new research hub, a public square with pedestrian and cycle links, and the refurbishment of five listed buildings. The proposals have faced local opposition, much of it concerning the removal of trees, but the university said it recognised the concerns and had factored greenery and landscaping into the redevelopment plans.
“We are delighted that Glasgow City Council has endorsed our ambitious plan, which we believe will be a major economic driver for the city and for Scotland, as well as underpin this university’s world-leading position,” said the university’s principal, Anton Muscatelli.
“This will be one of the biggest educational infrastructure projects in Scotland’s history and is certainly the biggest development undertaken by this university since it moved to Gilmorehill [in the West End of the city] 150 years ago.
“We are very aware that whilst we undertake this scale of construction, we must minimise disruption to both the university community and the West End - and the university will work closely with community groups to ensure we respect those living and working in the area.”
Also among the first new facilities will be an Institute of Health and Wellbeing, a business school and a new home for the university’s College of Arts, including performance spaces for students.
According to a document that went before councillors last month, it is hoped the new development will be a “vibrant, urban, learning and research campus” that is “woven into the fabric of the West End”.
The university moved to the Gilmorehill site in 1870.
A pre-emption agreement was signed in 1878 stating that if the Western Infirmary, which opened in 1874, ever ceased to be a hospital then the university could buy the site.