The fate of Coate yet to be decided

From Swindon TUC’s August 2005 E-Newsletter

Despite misleading headlines in the Advertiser, the fate of the planning application for the University campus and 1800 houses in the Coate area has still yet to be decided. More than 23,000 people have signed the petition against the application.
Council leader Mike Bawden has caused divisions within the ranks of the Tories by his support for the application. At the Council Cabinet meeting Justin Tomlinson voted against supporting the application whilst Gary Perkins gritted his teeth and abstained. Has this anything to do with the unpopularity of the proposition and the proximity of Council elections next year you may wonder?
Mr Bawden is being disingenuous when he blames the government since he was the man who told the Guardian that he had “brokered a deal” with the developers.

Meanwhile Bath University has formally rejected the proposal of Swindon Civic Trust for a University in the town centre.

Thanks to John Doyle’s research we have unearthed an article from the Swindon Advertiser in September 2001, at the time when the University’s campus at Oakfield on Park North was opened. The paper reported that the University was seeking to expand its presence in the town by building a campaus at North Star. Vice Chancellor Glynnis Breakwell mentioned that in the light of the building of the new hospital at Commonhead, the University was keen to work with the hospital. “Glynnis sees an ideal opportunity for the University of Bath to develop its medical research and teaching in Swindon.”

Hold on a minute. What about the vast distance between North Star and Commonhead? Wouldn’t that be an obstacle to such collaboration? Apparently not.

Later Mrs Breakwell came out with the convenient line that the University had to be at Commonhead next to the hospital.

So why did they change their line? Could it have had anything to do with the fact that the ‘developers’ offered the land at Coate for free; the deal ‘brokered’ by Mike Bawden?

The assertion that the only possible site was in the Coate area was only a convenience to cover the fact that the decision was an economic one.
And, of course, the offer was made because the house builders knew the chances of a planning application being accepted were better if the housing was connected with a campus.

This underlines the fact that the ultimatum to the town, “Coate or not at all” is completely unprincipled.

The split in the Tory group is a good sign that the pressure from the campaign is mounting. The “Great Debate” which the Advertiser has featured has shown an overwhelming preponderance of local people opposed to the building of the campus and housing at Coate. The battle is far from over.

(There is a new Save Coate news site at: http://savecoate.blogspot.com )

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