HUNDREDS of University of New England students living at Robb College will be forced to find alternative accommodation as of next year.
Yesterday, the university made the “difficult” decision to close the residential section of the college in 2014.
A possible heritage listing has affected its multi-million dollar renovation.
A decision by the NSW Heritage Council on December 5 found Robb was of “state heritage significance”.
A community member is believed to have made an application to heritage-list the buildings after the redevelopment planning had already begun.
With heritage listing on the cards, the university says its hands are tied and it cannot push ahead with its plans while there is uncertainty.
The college, one of seven on-campus residential offerings in Armidale, was designed in the 1960s.
It is known for its strong rugby history and favoured by rural students in particular.
Robb ran into a few problems in 2009 when a whole residential wing was closed due to safety problems.
Its student numbers declined as a result.
The university’s college redevelopment project had earmarked Robb as the first to undergo redevelopment and receive extensive upgrades.
A development application would have gone before the Northern Regional Planning Panel to approve the rebuilding of three Robb wings, at about $15.7 million.
Despite the uncertainty of the heritage listing, stage one of the redevelopment will still proceed, consisting of a new 220-bed college on a new site in the college precinct.
University of New England (UNE) chief operating officer Peter Enlund said if they couldn’t rebuild Robb on the current site, they would rebuild it on an alternative site.
Mr Enlund regretted that the situation meant, for the time being, Robb would not get the redevelopment students deserved.
Some UNE colleges have already undergone renovations in the last few years, including Mary White, the closest on-campus accommodation to UNE faculties, and Earle Page, which received an emergency exit stairwell to bring it into line with safety standards.
Mr Enlund said it would cost $7 million just to bring Robb up to building compliance standards and that would still leave them with a 50-year-old building.
“This remediation cost alone exceeds the physical value of the asset,” he said.
Mr Enlund said they would revisit the redevelopment when the heritage council made its decision.
Meanwhile, Robb students will be given the option to transfer into alternative on-campus student accommodation.
It is not yet known whether the closure will stir similar protests as seen five years ago, when students from all seven of UNE’s colleges staged a vigil to campaign against possible privatisation.
Robb staff employed by UNE will be retained.