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Press Release - 02 December 2005

University welcomes Inspector's endorsement of plans for new Swindon campus

The University of Bath in Swindon has welcomed the planning inspector's endorsement of plans for a new campus at the Gateway site.

The inspector's decision brings the new campus, which would have 8,000 students on a 60-hectare site, a big step closer.

The inspector made his decision as part of his review of the Swindon Borough Local Plan which had accepted the University's case for the campus.

In his report the inspector, David Fenton, says: "There is no questioning, in my view, the need for and desirability of establishing some type of substantial higher education facilitity in the Swindon area. The benefits for the town, both directly and indirectly and including the re-branding of Swindon, are obvious to all parties. The establishment of a university in the town would be a major boost for the image and economy of the town."

In his report, the Inspector also says the Council must increase protection for wildlife and landscape in the area, and recommends a buffer zone between the proposed campus and nearby Coate Water.

The Council will now modify its Local Plan and hold further consultation before making a final decision. If this favours the new campus, a formal planning application can be submitted and if this is approved, building work could begin in 2007.

The proposed campus is itself part of a larger scheme that will build around 1,800 houses at the site.

A University spokesperson said: "The University is pleased the Inspector has supported the proposal for a University campus at the Gateway site. This is a very important decision for Swindon, and for securing the town's future prosperity, as it brings the provision of a major university presence in Swindon one step closer.

"It is vital to the University that we can develop a campus that serves the needs of Swindon (and Wiltshire) and provides the quality university education for which the University of Bath is world-renowned. This will be foremost in our minds as we work with our partners.

"We are aware of the Inspector's conclusions on the provision of a 'buffer zone ' between the proposed campus at Gateway and the nearby Coate Water. We are now considering how the overall development plan for the Gateway can be amended to accommodate the Inspector's recommendations. We will need a little time to consider the options and to select the best.

"The new campus is also important for allowing our School for Health to work closely with the Great Western Hospital nearby."

The inspector did not favour an alternative proposal by the Swindon Civic Trust to site the campus in the centre of Swindon. "To begin with, there would be major obstacle to the location of the entire campus in the town centre not least because of land availability. Many of the sites suggested by the Swindon Civic Trust face delivery problems and there are competing projects for regeneration in the town centre that may restrict the choice of sites available.

"I am in absolutely no doubt as to the very strongly held feelings of local people about the Coate areas...however, whilst the views of this edge of Swindon will change, I do not consider that changes to this setting need materially harm the character and high scenic quality of the AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty) landscape. The intrinsic quality of the AONB itself would not be harmed". He said his main concern was the impact on views looking to the Downs. He recommended an appropriate buffer zone but did not specify its size.

"In conclusion I have found that the Coate area is a sustainable location for development. In particular, it offers the opportunity to establish a high quality university presence in a town that should have very substantial benefits to the economic and social well being of the area".

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