The redevelopment of the Fife Park Houses has begun, leaving some current residents feeling as if they are being “forced out”.
Contractors Sir Robert McAlpine have recently felled trees and removed much of the shrubbery from Fife Park in response to an ecological survey in order to prevent birds from nesting in advance of the demolition.
Digging will begin on-site this week in order to establish the exact location of underground utilities such as gas, water and power.
Surveyors will also be on-site for several days in early May at dawn and dusk in order to locate any bats nesting, as well as to conduct predemolition surveys which will take four to six weeks.
Many current residents of Fife Park are frustrated by these preliminary works taking place in advance of the demolition.
Residential and Business Services circulated an email on 20 March informing residents that phase two was going ahead and they would be felling trees in the area to prevent birds nesting. Within five days, many of the trees between the houses were killed.
Several residents expressed frustration that this happened while students are still living in the accommodation. One, Lauren Holmes, said: “They’ve cut almost everything to the ground… in some ways it feels like we’re being forced out.”
Meanwhile, other residents complained that the felling occurred earlier than planned. One first year said she was “woken up by chainsaws under my window at eight in the morning”.
One student who has lived in Fife Park for three years said: “They should have done this last year when they had an opportunity instead of disrupting students so close to exams and when dissertations are due.
“It’s like they’re preparing for a funeral before someone’s even died… Some guy in a suit rocked up the other day assessing the place. He clearly had no regard for the fact that people are still living here, this is still their home.
“I’m bothered by the lack of vegetation and the lack of care about cleaning up after hacking it down.
“The digging work over the next week is just another nail in the coffin. It feels like they don’t think it even matters to us.”
As work got underway, a consultation meeting last week revealed further plans of what the new residences would look like once completed.
Set to house just over 300 students, the apartments will be largely in keeping with the existing design and materials of Fife Park Apartments. The blocks will be a mixture of two, three and four storey self-catered blocks with both en-suite and shared bathroom facilities.
Construction is planned for completion in August 2015. The University is keen to ensure minimal disruption to the area but students living close to the site next year can expect construction work to begin at 8 am on weekdays and from 9 am on Saturdays. The contractors aim to minimise disruption during exam periods and dissertation deadlines.
The apartments will be eventually powered entirely by the Guardbridge biomass plant. Many of the current materials and furnishings of Fife Park will be recycled or reused.
Current undergraduate students will move out when their contracts finish at the end of May. Postgraduate students who were scheduled to remain in Fife Park over the summer months will be moved to alternative accommodation or released from their contracts. The houses will then be demolished to make way for the new buildings.
The University had not replied to a request for comment by press time.