Is this bye-bye Barbican?

Renovations at the Barbican Centre mean student smay be priced out of the market

By now most students know by word of mouth, leaflet, or various newspaper coverage that the Barbican will be shutting down at the end of May for massive changes. The question now is how will this effect students who have used the Barbican as an affordable alternative to campus facilities?

“The Barbican has tried to offer flexible memberships to students from York University, St. John’s, York College, and York Bible College,” explained a representative for the Barbican. A large number of students hold a student savers pass that is paid for on a term-by-term basis so that no long-term commitment is required. The only alternative once the Barbican closes besides campus facilities will be the Next Generation which requires a several month commitment and is much more costly.

The Barbican Centre, formally controlled completely by York City Council, will then be divided into two basically independent entities. “The venue will close at the end of May, and is expected to go under renovation for six months, at which point it will be reopened and run by Absolute Leisure,” claims the Barbican representative. The City Council will still own the property, but an extensive leasing agreement has been drawn up with Absolute Leisure.

The Barbican will be quickly reopened for entertainment, but the city council has far bigger plans for the sports facilities, which are mostly used by students. “The sports side of things will close May 31st, and is scheduled to reopen in April 2006. It will be completely redesigned with a gym, climbing wall, and pool all to be operated by the City Council.,” explained the Barbican.

The York City Council sites the goal of raising property values as the main reason for the massive construction, “The new plans should increase the value of the capital receipt from the sale of the site from £9.6m to £10.33m, providing an additional £0.7m funding for the redevelopment of Edmund Wilson and Yearsley pools.”

This rise in value is due to the building of a four-star hotel to replace the current budget hotel, 240 flats, 60 affordable homes, and 270 parking spaces along with the improved sports facilities.

The City Council claims that this will also increase the amount of jobs the site can offer, though during the time of renovation 43 full time jobs and many other casual jobs will be lost. York students hold many of these casual jobs, “I will be out of a job, which will effect my fees,” said Lisa.

In a meeting on Wednesday February 4th at the City Council, York’s leisure chiefs pledged to help Barbican employees realise their transferable employment skills and find alternative jobs. “The redevelopment of the Barbican site is an exciting project for the city, but it does mean that the jobs of some of the current staff are affected. The council has agreed to do all it can to work with staff at the Barbican to find an alternative job,” stated Charlie Croft, the assistant director of Lifelong Learning and Leisure.

As of now the Barbican has not determined its plan of action for student memberships in summer term, as it will be cut short by a couple of weeks. “We have not taken any money for memberships past May,” comments the Barbican representative, “do not worry if we are not here, you will not be charged.”

They are currently looking into alternative options for summer term memberships and considering if there are any services they can offer students during the renovation. Finally the centre’s representatives have promeised that they will stay in communication with students and the city council, throughout the process.