Locals force rethink on university expansion plan

A university has abandoned a bid to expand its estate in the face of a backlash from locals.

August 19, 2011

York St John University has withdrawn its plan to buy a coach and car park from the City of York Council after a campaign by local traders who feared the sale would harm business.

The university announced the plans to buy the Union Terrace car and coach park in June, with a view to expanding on to the site.

Although it had not finalized its plans, York St John was considering building academic teaching or conference facilities on the site.

Over 22,000 people signed a petition against the sale, and yesterday the university said it was withdrawing the purchase.

In a statement, vice-chancellor David Fleming says that “having participated in the consultation we have concluded that we need to reconsider.

“We will now work with the council and other stakeholders in the city to develop alternative plans to ensure that York St John University is able to build on its success and continue to be an important economic driver in the city.”

Campaigners said the coach park was vital to around 50 independent shops and businesses in Gillygate Street, which is next to the car park.

They argued that around 1,750 people arrived by coach per day to frequent the area, and their loss would have damaged business.

James Alexander, Labour leader of City of York Council - who also works for the university as a project and outreach officer - said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

“Whatever people’s views on the suitability of the site, the university’s expansion would have provided a real boost to the city’s economy, providing local jobs and contributing an estimated additional £31 million into the economy each year,” he said.

Professor Fleming adds in his statement: “Be reassured; we remain steadfast and determined to achieve the full potential of the university.”

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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