After a protracted planning and approval process, the University of St Andrews is facing new cost and supply challenges that are delaying the construction of new student accommodation at Albany Park.
Back in 2018, the University indicated that construction was set to start during late 2019 and finish during Summer 2022. But in recent comments to The Saint, a University spokesperson explained, “at this stage it’s not possible to say with certainty when work will begin on site”.
“The Albany Park development is central to our strategic commitment to provide additional, good quality, purpose-built student accommodation in St Andrews, while relieving pressure on local private housing stock”.
“Unfortunately, plans for the development have been significantly delayed due to global supply chain issues, the rising cost of building materials, and the need for the University to fund this important project with our partners in a sustainable way,” the University’s statement read.
While the Albany Park site now sits vacant, it formerly housed 340 students in a 1970s-era accommodation complex. But the complex had fallen into disrepair, and was demolished in 2020.
Juan Pablo Rodriguez, President of the St Andrews Students' Association, explained that during 2018, “Albany closed down around some point in the middle of the semester and students were relocated to Whitehorn and Powell [...] there were issues and concerns about health and safety”.
Rodriguez put the challenges to the new construction project in a broader context.
“The problem with Albany is that it has found all the possible obstacles that new development can find”.
“Originally it was going to be 900 rooms. It was then decreased to 600,” Rodriguez said.
“That was Fife Council’s doing”.
In March 2016, the University released its plans to demolish and rebuild Albany Park, to be “funded by equity-release schemes with private sector partners,” namely, the global student accommodation provider Campus Living Villages, a privately-held Australian company with whom the University has partnered previously on the development of Powell and Whitehorn halls, and the Fife Park expansion.
Later in 2017 the University appointed an architect for a £62 million Albany Park project.
But the plans faced many objections from local residents and groups including the St Andrews Preservation Trust, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations (CSARA), St Andrews Sailing Club, and the St Andrews Community Council. Fife Council rejected multiple rounds of plans from the University.
In 2019, the University submitted plans for 960 rooms at Albany Park in 2019, but when Fife Council finally granted approval in January 2021, the University’s plans for the project included 681 rooms, at a cost of £70 million.
But amidst a crisis of housing supply and affordability in St Andrews, the University indicated that the number of bedrooms planned for Albany Park could decrease even further.
“We’re working closely with our partners to look at all possible ways to expedite the development, including revising the plans to increase the number of student bedrooms,” said a University spokesperson.
“Now, the issue is that building Albany is too expensive,” offered Rodriguez.
From his office in the Union, Rodriguez explained that the current conditions make it challenging for the University to offer affordable options after the project is completed. In their July 2020 submissions, the University planned for half the beds at the rebuilt Albany Park to be affordable accommodation.
Rodriguez elaborated: “At this point the university has stopped things, they are trying to negotiate with the contractor to see which way prices can come down. Which gets complicated because of inflation right now”.
Image: University of St Andrews Albany Park Development Plan