Trinity’s £4.5 million saves the Union

Anna Carruthers 31 January 2015

Trinity College has agreed to provide £4.5 million to the renovation of the Cambridge Union Society 149 year old building, following the discovery of damage to the foundations.

A 2011 survey of the building revealed a major subsidence issues as well as timber rotting, water damage and a non-functioning sewage system. The Union is also conscious of the fact that a number of internal hardware elements are due for renewal, including the heating and boiler system.

In order to obtain the necessary funds to resolve these issues, the Union will be leasing part of the site to Trinity College for the sum of £4.5 million. The area in question currently comprises of three dilapidated cottages and a disused squash court.

At the end of Michaelmas Term 2014 the contract was signed by Trinity College and the deal was then confirmed by unanimous vote by the student committee and the Board of Trustees.  According to the Union, Trinity’s bid was successful on the basis that it "represents the best deal available to the Union and, most importantly, to the interests of its members."

Current Union President Amy Gregg commented: “"We are very excited to be able to take this step forward towards safeguarding the future of our Union's building. The project will be managed in such a way that the regular operation of the Union will not be significantly affected."

The released plans are still subject to planning permission but there is an emphasis on conservation, in line with the building’s Grade II listed status. Current highlights of the design include a student-only bar alongside a public bar/cafe and a significantly altered central staircase. The current area outside of the chamber will see the addition of a glass covered walkway overhead and an elevator for disabled visitors.

Guest security has clearly been made a priority in light of recent protests surrounding controversial speakers. The rear car park will now be enclosed by an 8ft sliding iron gate with surrounding railings. Also featured on the plans is a VIP entrance, accessible from the secure car park.