Saturday, 11 June 2011

Aberystwyth University super bundle

Many apologies to all the people who have sent text and photos in over the last few months about Aberystwyth University - we do look at everything we are sent but sometimes are just too busy to post it all. Nonetheless we're incredibly grateful to our roving reporters and supporters. Sadly we've had lots of complaints about Aberystwyth University building on greenfield sites in the past - skim through some previous posts on the subject. We get so many emails on this subject that it is obviously one of huge concern, as is the issue of overdevelopment in general. We have decided to feature some of the things we have been sent, though this risks becoming another large blog post! After all, Aberystwyth University rates as awful on environmental grounds - 111th out of 138 universities in the new People & Planet report (see summary in The Guardian). This is not surprising if you look at some of the topics we have covered in previous posts, which is only a selection of what we receive, which in turn is only a selection of the things the university is doing. So much is hidden or behind closed doors that if it was included as well things would look even more bleak. Anyway, on with the summary of news we have been sent about the University's continued building projects, animal killing and high salaries to the top dogs... Apologies if some of it is a bit out of date now, we only have so many volunteers and hours in the day...

Building on greenfield sites
One supporter submitted some FOI requests to the university in February. Their first request was asking how many trees and bushes the university has cut down each year for the last 5 years and the area of greenfield sites built on for university business (departments, car parks, accommodation etc) for the last 5 years. The response from Aberystwyth University was:
"Under section 1(1)(a) of the Act I can confirm that the University does not keep records of the number of trees or bushes that are cut down."
Is it any wonder that they do so badly on green issues? They don't even record this kind of vital data. In which case they have no way of knowing the rate at which they are destroying green spaces. It shows what a poor state the university management is in. They also said:
"The University has not built anything on Greenfield sites in the last 5 years. The University has built on Penglais Campus but this is not classed as a ‘Greenfield’ site."
As our previous posts show, the university HAS built on a wide range of greenfield sites and continues to do so. Penglais Campus has woods and parks and grassed areas and meadows - all of which are greenfield sites. It is very convenient for the university that they change the definition of 'greenfield areas' to exclude their own 'greenfield areas'. This type of dishonest spin is part of the reason so many people are angry at the university.

New accommodation blocks elsewhere in Aberystwyth
In March 2011 it was announced that the university was going ahead with a £45 million new development of accommodation for 1000 student units located on land immediately behind Pentre Jane Morgan, to start in autumn 2012. This had already been predicted by other local bloggers.

This is where the new halls will go, opposite the car park mentioned below. Bye bye green spaces. Hello concrete and traffic.

Note that we are not against accommodation for students. We are against the stupidity and waste of money and resources in knocking down halls in one place, then building new ones elsewhere on greenfield sites. There is a shortage of housing for the students because the university chose to knock down halls (Llanbadarn Campus) rather than repair them. Obviously the university can't plan a budget and leave aside a figure for maintenance. Instead they knock them down then go to WAG and say they need accommodation and ask for funding, and WAG stupidly agrees. Aberystwyth University mismanagement created this situation, why should it get bailed out by tax payers again? All because of some stupid decision to centralise on Penglais campus. The greatest idiocy is that it will take just as long to walk to Penglais departments from the new building site as from Llanbadarn Campus!

At the very least they should re-build on the site of the old halls on Llanbadarn Campus instead of destroying a huge greenfield site. Otherwise we are seeing a huge waste of money and resources at a time when people are losing their jobs. This is what happens when decisions are made by highly-paid university officials (see later for a note on their salaries).

University waste: from the Cambrian News, Thu 3 Feb 2011, page 4

New accommodation blocks on Penglais Campus
The university is going to move car parks and build more halls on Penglais (despite having knocked down halls rather than repair them on Llanbadarn Campus). Planning application A100874 for 'Erection of 60-bed student accommodation block, together with associated works' at 'Cwrt Mawr, Penglais Campus'. Approved Subject to Conditions 24/12/2010. This was not discussed with the wider community, another decision from behind closed doors with these applications sneaking through.

The planning application - note the huge area that will be built on. Inevitably the university will then make new car parks elsewhere on campus, as it has done in the past, so more green areas lost. Tip: check planning applications with this clunky 'interactive mapping tool'

On a satellite view it is easy to get an idea of all the trees and green area that will be built on.

The view from the road showing the mature green area that will be destroyed. Not so nice for the people who live around there.

Work in progress, 20th June 2011

20th June 2011 - expanding the concrete sprawl

April - University digs up another field
A student sent this to us. They emailed the university Estates department as follows, but never got a reply.
To: Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 4:28 PM Subject: Softball Hello, I was with some friends heading to the sports centre and we passed the patch of land between Pantycelyn and the big car park and noticed it has all been dug up. What is happening to that green area? We've played softball there in the past since it was such a nice spot surrounded by bushes.
This is typical of Aberystwyth University - you rarely see a planning notice for anything, certainly not with any detail in, then suddenly fields have been dug up or built on. See images below, all from during April. There are some beautiful green areas around there, it looks like the university has plans to expand onto those now. Update 15 June 2011: see comments below for news on this. If the University Estates department actually replied to emails then things like this could be resolved much more quickly.

Yet more building plans - this time the University Sports Centre
Yes, there is yet another building project going on.

See this green area, part of an area already built on three times extended? The university intends to build on that last green space.

Here is the planning notice about it.

More construction past the TFTV building
We were sent these photos from 31 March 2011 - we're not sure what is going on here but lots of bushes and trees appear to have been cut down by the university.

Huge carpark on greenfield site
A huge carpark of 200 spaces was built on fields for the joint use of Bronglais Hospital and Aberystwyth University opposite/just after Pentre Jane Morgan hall.

This is what the site looked like before it was built on

This is what it looks like now. A huge waste of money, destroying large green spaces for a car park, and promoting anti-environmental car use. Apparently there are plans for ANOTHER car park here.

New medical centre
We were told that the new medical centre, which is destroying a huge greenfield area and cutting into the nature reserve/woods has links to the university and the land may have been sold off by the university. Unfortunately we could not get a reply from Aberystwyth University's Estates Department. As usual our email for clarification was ignored. The area is opposite Bronglais Hospital, on Penglais Road, planning ref A050737 for 'Erection of medical centre, creche & new site access' by Gaufron Healthcare.

Photos sent by a supporter: view from Pantycelyn, across Penglais Hill to the new medical centre

The building site

Animal experiments / killing
Another FOI request asked for details of how many animals had been used in experiments and vivisection or killed by the university each year for the last 5 years. It was stated that this would include fish and farm animals (e.g. experiments in using new modified animal feeds at IGER/IBERS); animals used in dissection (e.g. as part of teaching by Biological Sciences); and animals killed or sold for slaughter by the university farms. The university was asked to provide as much detail as possible for each year: types of animal, purpose etc. This is an important topic, since universities in Wales use taxpayers money to fund all sorts of cruel and unnecessary experiments, whilst doing their best to keep these dirty secrets from the same taxpayers, hiding details of what is done, where, and by whom.

The response from the university in March 2011 only went back a few years, they said they did not have accurate data from before that. Very convenient for them, but it raises huge questions about how poorly these things are regulated, and even what is being done with our money.

Most of the cruelty comes about due to the work of the University's Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). It should be noted that not only does the university have incomplete records on what it does, but it also "only records information on animal experiments conducted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 ... IBERS does conduct research using animals that is not covered by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986" - which therefore excludes a lot of data. As a result all the information below is an underestimate, and the actual figures could be many times higher.

Table 1. Number of animals used in each of the last three years conducted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 - excludes many other animals

Species 2008 2009 2010 Total
Cattle 80 209 91 380
Sheep 90 12 16 118
Mice 10 143 124 277
Poultry 0 0 40 40

The university also kills or dissects animals as part of teaching. They do not keep full records on this and only provide an estimate, which - as with the other figures - is a minimum amount, not a maximum. An example of some of the other animals killed or used in this way in the period that was asked about:

120 Green Hydra bought in from scientific supplier
120 Mussels [Mytilus Edulis] collected from seashore
50 Common starfish [Asterias reubens] bought preserved from scientific supplier
100 Lugworm [Arenicola marina] bought preserved from scientific supplier
100 Snails [Helix aspersa] collected locally
100 Shore crabs [Carcinus maenas] collected locally
110 Dogfish [Scyliorhinus canicula] bought from local fisherman
110 Bullfrogs [Rana] bought in preserved from scientific supplier
110 Chicks [Gallus domesticus] bought in preserved from scientific supplier
110 Rats [Rattus norvegius] bought in preserved from scientific supplier
50 Mackrel [Scomber scombrus] bought frozen from fishmongers

Obviously the university could use more advanced methods that don't use real animals, as schools should too, but they insist on promoting cruelty. One current student told us that Aberystwyth University is one of the few universities that does not allow an alternative to animal dissection on some courses, and she was forced to do it. This is a good example of institutionally embedded cruelty.

There is more. The university has farms which sell "livestock into the human food chain through conventional licensed abattoirs". If you want an idea of what that involves then watch this video. Again, the university haven't recorded all the data, yet just in the last few years they have sent over 7000 animals to their deaths.

Table 2. Numbers of beef animals and lambs sold into the human food chain by the commercial Farms of IBERS - not complete figures

Year Beef animals Lambs
2008 180 2600
2009 240 2100
2010 320 1650

Going back to the point about research, we are seeing huge waste here. For example see this December 2010 university announcement. £3.9 million for this stupid research? The answer is clear without spending all that money - don't mass-farm animals, cut meat out of your diet, and we could be healthier and more civilised and save a chunk of money.


One supporter was interested in the salaries of the "top ten most highly paid positions in the university (vice chancellor etc) along with any perks associated with the role such as housing, pension contributions etc. Role titles and salaries are sufficient, not personal names."

This is interesting at a time when the university has decided to charge the maximum of £9,000 for student tuition fees. The university's response is below and they said "these figures cover the Vice-Chancellor, 5 other members of the Senior Management Team and 4 professors". However the information excluded perks (such as the Vice chancellor being given a small mansion in the woods to use as they wish) and expenses so this is an underestimate.

Top ten annual salaries at Aberystwyth University (with pension, excluding perks, expenses, training etc):
Total for ten staff: £1,202,154

It is less of a surprise now that Aberystwyth University chose to charge students the maximum amount.

We're not the only ones concerned about those running the university voting themselves high salaries. From the Cambrian News, Thu 3 Feb 2011, letters page 16

One day it would be lovely to do blog posts about the university which showed it was cancelling building projects and instead creating more green spaces and woods; was adopting openness and giving people a say in what it did; and turning its back on cruelty to animals. That would be so much nicer for us. We much prefer positive news. One can but dream.

Update 17 June 2011: it is interesting that this post has already had over 300 views from around the world.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

One very good piece of news in here: Pantycelyn field was dug up to install a ground source heat pump for the new IBERS building. This will reduce the emissions to be created by the new building. The field has now been grassed over again and should be available as a sports field again by next term. We lobbied quite hard for the GSHP too!
Agree with a lot of the rest, but lobbying the university is a slow process!