The extensive building works taking place near Wentworth College will become a new set of blocks for Vanbrugh College, which will cost around £10 million, according to current predictions. The ‘Bleachfield’ project, which will divide Vanbrugh over a number of sites, has raised concerns over the cohesion of the college’s future.
The new complex will be comprised of six blocks with around 249 rooms. There are currently no plans for a Bleachfield JCR to be built, or for any portering provision on site.
It has been mooted that one of the blocks could be solely inhabited by postgraduates, but this has yet to be confirmed. The rooms are likely to be a similar style to those in Alcuin currently, with en-suite facilities and well-equipped kitchens which would also be used to house conference guests over the holiday periods.
Bleachfield was intended to be ready for the academic year of 2006/2007 but due to problems involving planning permission it has been delayed.
It is hoped that the first two blocks will open on 7 October, possibly to house the new intake of Medical students who are currently not affiliated to any particular college. Two further blocks will follow on 19 October, and the remainder will be ready for January 2008, along with a ‘services’ building which will include a laundry.
The need for an addition to the original Vanbrugh building has come about since the refurbishment of Blocks B and C, which are now almost entirely made up of offices, and also house the LFA and Language & Linguistics departments. Currently, Vanbrugh students reside in Blocks A and B of the original Vanbrugh building. A number of students are staying in Blocks P and Q of Alcuin College due to the building work and the imminent demolition of the old Language Teaching Centre.
Concerns have been raised by former Vanbrugh College Chair, Mickey Macefield, and its current Provost, Alan Warren, over the physical break-up of Vanbrugh and the effect such changes will have on welfare and college spirit.
The JCR for Vanbrugh students living in Bleachfield will be situated across campus, which has led to concerns that Bleachfield residents could become isolated from other members of the college.
The fact that the complex will be left without a laundry for the entirety of the Autumn Term has also been highlighted as an issue, which has caused tension on the original Vanbrugh site where laundry facilities are already scarce.
Warren has stressed the need to retain a “physical place where college identity can have some reality.” However, he is in favour of Bleachfield, and says the key to success is the “real cross-fertilisation of learning and experience for students and staff alike.”