THE first phase of a ‘masterplan’ to breathe new life into the Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria is to begin this month.

Work will start on a striking new timber-clad structure to house student services and a cafe, along with improvements to the Barn Theatre, which will be upgraded using Cumbrian stone.

‘Significant landscape’ works to better link the northern and southern ends of the site, including the main central courtyard, are also planned.

The work signals the start of a major programme to bring hundreds of students to the campus, shut down in 2009 by bosses forced to find savings amid a £20m deficit.

Michael Berry, director of estates and IT at the University of Cumbria, said: “This project is a fundamental driver in the development of the Cumbrian economy.

“The development will help our institution operate more effectively as a single entity, and provide excellent facilities in a high-quality learning environment.”

London-based architects John McAslan and Partners, whose portfolio boasts redevelopment of the British Embassy in Algiers and King’s Cross station, are behind the £3.8m project.

Tony Skipper, who is overseeing the development, added: “This is an exciting opportunity to improve existing buildings and develop new landscaping strategies.

“New landscaping will make it easier to move around the site and create a more cohesive campus.”

The first students will arrive at Ambleside this September. University halls accommodation will be provided for all first year undergraduates. Bosses also hope to find accommodation for second and first-year students in the private sector in the town.

The number of students at the campus will increase from 260 this September to around 500 in September 2014.

As part of the university’s 10-year strategic plan, it is hoped more than 750 students, plus staff, will be accommodated.

A range of specialist and enterprise courses will also be phased in.

Planning consent for stage two of the redevelopment is expected to be sought later this year.

This will include work to the Grade II-listed Scale How House and additional landscaping.