THE return of hundreds of students to the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside campus is a step closer after bosses approved phase one of a plan to re-open the moth-balled site.

University directors appro-ved the reoccupation of the campus which was closed in 2009, though development plans still hinge on disposal of surplus buildings to fund the work.

Local councillors welcomed the go-ahead but are urging university bosses to keep the local community in mind when taking forward their plans.

South Lakeland district councillor Heidi Halliday said: “While I welcome the university’s commitment to the Ambleside campus, we need to ensure that the university continues to engage with the community.”

And Coun Ben Berry urged the university to keep locals ‘at the heart of its plans’.

“Many residents have felt they haven’t been listened to at all and for the university to be a success, they have to work with local people,” he said.

A controversial argument over the Greenbank estate in the town being used for construction traffic to access the north of the campus was resolved when university bosses agreed to use the southern entrance instead. And they are still looking at sites for new halls of res-idence to avoid a detrimental effect on residents.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron welcomed the news after a two-year campaign to bring students back to Ambleside.

“I will continue to work with the community, parish council and others to make sure we hold the university to its word,” he said.

“We reckon when it closed the campus was worth £5 million a year to South Lake-land, and the kudos of having a university makes it much easier to attract people to set up businesses.”

Around mid-December the university will hold another public exhibition to showcase updated plans, with a formal application expected to go to the Lake District National Park Authority in January.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Liz Beaty said: “The Lake District is internationally rec-ognised and having a campus there will create a unique selling proposition for courses linked to the out-doors, environment and rural landscape, as well as short intensive courses where location is a key attraction.

“Ensuring Ambleside reaches its full potential will not only give our students an excellent experience, but gives us an opportunity to capitalise on the investment and attract more students to the university as a whole."