Harvard University has provoked protest and confrontation in a nearby Boston neighbourhood where the school is backing away from plans to build housing and laboratories on land it took years to buy.

Community activists in Allston, a section of Boston across the Charles River from Harvard’s main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say university delays have left a 'blighted' neighborhood of vacant businesses, stalled construction sites and invading rats. President Drew Faust said in an announcement in February that construction of a $1bn science center in Allston would be slowed because of a 'bleak' economic outlook.