The University has come under fire from residents and local officials over its plans for campus expansion at the ongoing inquiry into Heslington East. An ex-University bursar, Roger McMeeking, was among many to raise concerns about the proposals.
The inquiry, which is examining the viability of plans to build a new £500 million, 65-hectare Heslington East campus on green belt land, opened in the Spring and is due to reach a verdict in January.
During the inquiry, concerns have been raised about the encroachment upon greenbelt land, increased traffic and pressure on the private housing sector that could result from the plans.
Speaking at the enquiry, Mark Hill, a Green Party City Councillor, said: “This is basically a land grab, using the University’s good reputation to get access to greenbelt land for a lucrative business park. The effect on the surrounding parts of York will be severe: extra congestion, reduced air quality and increased house prices.”
Dave Taylor, a former director of York’s Inward Investment Board, disputed the University’s claim that the development should be exempt from greenbelt rules.
He said: “There would have to be very good reasons to build on greenbelt land, particularly to build workplaces in locations where there is inadequate public transport and an already strained road network with air quality problems.”
He also raised residents’ concerns about increasing number of students at the University. “If the University expansion goes ahead but it fails to provide sufficient student accommodation, we will see more of the surrounding housing being converted to multiple-occupancy, and further deterioration of communities in the area.”
Representing the views of Heslington residents at the inquiry, Councillor Cederig Jamieson-Ball said that while a minority of residents supported the scheme, “the majority do not”.
He also raised residents’ concerns about the amount of traffic the new campus could generate, late night noise and parking problems.
McMeeking, who worked at the university between 1964 and 1999 and was bursar from 1980 to 1996, raised concerns over the demand for student housing if the expansion goes ahead.
He said he still fully supported the application, but added that the University had underestimated the demand for student housing by 1,200 because it had overestimated the percentage of part-time students who would not require student accommodation. These students would either have to be housed in the private sector or require an additional 33,694 square metres of space on the new campus.
Richard Frost, chairman of Heslington Parish Council which is opposing the expansion application, said: “It is very important that the legal agreements governing how much accommodation the University must build onsite are robust.”
By Heidi Blake
DEPUTY NEWS EDITOR