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Concerns voiced over plans for new car park on campus

The University has submitted a planning application for a proposed North car park which is causing concern amongst many of our members. This post, written by one of them, provides details. Details of how you can comment are provided at the end of the post.

The application relates the construction of two new car parks (166 spaces) and an access road on the University campus. The proposed car parks would be built on the green space behind the Westwood residences, up to the public bridleway and woodland beyond. This land is directly adjacent to these residences and the University nursery. The access road to the two car parks is proposed to lead along the Public Bridleway, just off North Road/Quarry Road.

Aside from consultation that the University carried out (in 2007-8) in relation to its Masterplan 2009-2020, which did not include any consultation specifically relating to these Woodland car parks, there has been no consultation undertaken by the University on these plans. Not only were the plans submitted to the B&NES Council after the students directly affected by the plans went on their summer vacation, but the University has not approached the Students Union or the trade unions to inform them of these plans, and the Manager of the University Nursery was only told about the plans some 2 weeks before the planning application was submitted.

Within the University Masterplan, the woodland and all the land along the public bridleway is classified as ‘significant landscape’ and the building of the car parks, the changing of the public bridleway, and the construction of the road would significantly inhibit student and staff access to such ‘significant landscape’. Moreover, the Landscape Strategy within the Masterplan begins:

‘The campus setting and the University’s wider landscape setting are viewed as a significant asset by staff, students and visitors to the campus. The landscape strategy seeks to maximise the amenity offered by the downland and woodland landscape setting …’.

It goes on to talk about constructing a ‘green ribbon around the campus which includes public rights of way and links to the wider network of public footpaths and bridleways’ and wanting to ‘enhance the University’s reputation as a sensitive and diligent custodian of its landscape environment.’ It is not easy to see how these plans are at all in keeping with this strategy. The land on which the car park and road are proposed to be built directly adjoins the ‘downland and woodland landscape setting’ which is so valued by staff and students alike. It is clearly of high amenity value to the students living in the adjoining residences, and to the children in the nursery.

Should it be developed, aside from health and safety implications for the children, which have not been considered by the University, it is highly likely to impact upon the nursery’s outstanding OFSTED rating, due to it curtailing their current daily outdoor activities on this land and forest school programme. Information about childcare provision is required when institutions apply for renewal or upgrading of institutional Athena Swan status and the loss of OFSTED outstanding status, or lack of support for on-campus childcare, could negatively affect future Athena Swan applications.

It is not at all clear why other areas of the University campus (including the temporary overspill from West car park that has already been unofficially developed) might not be much more suitable than this greenfield site and have considerably less adverse impact.

How you can comment on the planning applications

The period for public comment on these plans is open until 11th August 2014. Planning application reference number: 14/02715/FUL formally registered on 30th June 2014. You can comment via the B&NES planning website or by emailing the planning officer directly:

Chris Griggs Trevarthen: chris_griggs@bathnes.gov.uk

You can also read a comment on ecological and archaeological considerations

LATEST NEWS ON THIS …

The University has put in a new (amended) set of planning documents for the car park. It’s getting a bit messy and we’ve written to the council to ask that the application be re-submitted with a new consultation and all the current objectors notified. But the main points of the application remain the same (but the new proposal is to put the road alongside the bridleway rather than on it).

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