The iconic Richardson Road halls of residence are to be demolished as part of a proposed University accommodation strategy.
The flats, that currently house over 900 students, will be knocked-down and rebuilt in three stages as part of large scale programme of improvement to Halls of Residence across campus.
With a reputation as one of the most lively and sociable student environments not only within Newcastle University, but across the country, the destruction of Richardson Road will come as a shock not just to current undergraduates, but past students dating back to it’s first residents in the 1970s.
The strategy will see the overhaul of the current design of Ricky Road, creating entirely en suite facilities.
This falls into larger plans across all the university halls of residence to make 50% of the Universities’ accommodation en suite.
The project projections suggest rent prices could increase by approximately £10 per week, increasing the yearly cost by around £380.
Further changes include the provision of at least one shower between every three residents and wash basins in even the most basic residences.
In an interview with The Courier, the point was raised to Newcastle University’s Housing Manager Paul Bandeen as to whether this was an operation in profit over student experience.
However, Bandeen suggested that the rise will still mean that Newcastle accommodation remains one of the cheapest: “We’re currently in the lower quartile of accommodation rent prices in the country and that’s the position we want to remain.”
The strategy also includes the demolition of a major part of Henderson Hall and the refurbishment of Old Hall, alongside investment into all of the other accommodation sites.
New student accommodation will also be built at Kensington and Park Terrace, which are currently occupied by University offices. This specific project, including the initial demolition of the current building, will cost the University around £9.5 million, and is set to be completed in 2014.
Explaining the reasoning behind the strategy, Bandeen stated that the halls, better known to students as Ricky Road, had “reached the end of its lifespan.
“Richardson Road is starting to fail in a number of ways, such as infrastructure, utilities and heating. All we will do now [if it is not demolished] is spend considerable amounts of money standing still, which we don’t see as a viable option.
“We can’t do anything within the flats themselves because of how it is constructed. “I now believe that the accommodation is not fit for a young person who wants to come away from home in the 21st century. We need to provide accommodation to tick all the boxes.
“This isn’t an exercise in trying to increase rental income, this is an exercise in trying to improve accommodation standards.”
The strategy has also been branded as an attempt to provide a mixture of accommodation to meet the demands of different students.
According to Bandeen, the current trends in student demand also include a drop in the desire for catered accommodation, which from September 2012 will only be provided in Castle Leazes and ceased in Henderson Hall.
Further reasoning behind the strategy include the negative feedback Richardson Road receives on Open Days, as well as regular complaints in regards to room sizing and shapes of the rooms and noise levels from current students.
“Whether people like it or not, the feedback at open days is negative,” stated Bandeen. “When people are allocated to Richardson Road, they don’t want to live there.”
Many would agree that the aesthetics of Ricky Road are not appealing, however, it is questionable as to whether this is the major issue.
Third-year English Literature student Rachel Moon said: “After first visiting Ricky Road, I had decided that the flats were an awkward shape, the bathroom really needed a window and everything was too green.”
Consequently, I applied for Windsor Terrace and Victoria Halls and was less than excited when I received the news I would be living there instead. With hindsight, I am so grateful to whoever decided to randomly house me at Ricky Road. I loved the friendly atmosphere and would jump at the chance to return with my entire block.
“Experience far outweighed appearance, definitely the best halls to spend first year in. “
Newcastle’s University accommodation is one of the cheapest in the country, and according to the management it will stay the same after the strategy is complete. Leeds University is also undergoing a similar re-development, with Boddington Halls, a residence renowned also known for its social life, also being demolished, with new accommodation to be developed in its place.
“We have looked at the strategies of other universities and they have provided a lot of en-suites,” said Bandeen. “We, on the other hand, are looking to provide a balance at fifty-fifty as well in terms of prices. We are conscious that there are cost implications left, right and centre.”
Prior to the redevelopment, the country will see a rise in fees, and with the building of new, and potentially more expensive accommodation, students could be faced with an increasing financial burdens as a result.
Third-year Pharmacology student Clare Atkinson and previous Ricky Road resident said: “Richardson Road was such a great place to live for first year. It was really easy to meet people because everyone was really sociable and there were always events going on. It was also reasonably priced; personally I would have struggled to pay the higher rent prices at other halls. I would not have chosen to live anywhere else, it was an amazing experience.”
Questions have been raised as to whether the management are over-looking the importance of student experience and placing the priority on aesthetics.
Bandeen stated that, “People are making decisions on what they see.
They are telling us what they see and that provides and influence on us because we need to provide what they want as well.”
A testimony by third-year Sophie McCoid sums up her Ricky Road experience:
“I can safely say that 2009/2010 was the best year of my life. I was a fresher at Newcastle University, miles away from home and best of all I was living in the infamous Richardson Road.
The question, “what halls are you in?” when answered with “oh, Ricky Road” definitely got a wistful reaction from ex second year inhabitants who had had to be dragged kicking and screaming into houses in Jesmond.
Ricky Road has a reputation for being the party halls, and it lives up to this pretty well, in my year it did anyway.
“The camaraderie of sharing a bathroom and kitchen with six strangers quickly made sure that these people became your best friends, generally for the rest of Uni and beyond.
“The news that it’s going to be knocked down shocked and upset me.
For years those halls have stood as a testament to everything that your Freshers year is meant to be, fun filled and a bit basic.
To think that it’s going to be demolished is really upsetting and I feel incredibly sorry for those Freshers that wont get to experience the magic of it. “
Even though it is being knocked down, Bandeen stresses that some of the identity will remain and the good social environment will still be present: “It will still be called Richardson Road and the new accommodation will give people a better environment to enjoy themselves.”