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Comment: University can't do right for doing wrong
1:30pm Thursday 19th July 2012 in Opinion
SENIOR managers at the University of Cumbria must be feeling they can’t do right for doing wrong after their plans to re-populate the Ambleside campus with students prompted criticism from some residents.
When the board decided to mothball the campus in 2009, students and local residents were united in opposition.
In particular, Ambleside folk warned that the local economy would be badly hit once the students left.
But now there are plans to bring them back in 2014 there is a new outcry – this time about long-term plans for student accommodation.
As part of the new development, a new access is proposed through the Greenbank Road estate, a private residential area, potentially causing disruption to those who live there.
The university insists the access is ‘critical to the success of the campus’. This is so presumably because of the board’s decision to sell off six buildings it owns around Ambleside to help fund the £6m development that will ensure the students’ return. The new campus development will replace that lost accommodation, hence the desire for adequate access to the site.
The university might have reasonably expected to be praised for its new plans, but relations have now been soured with the people of Ambleside.
The institution does seem to deserve criticism for the way it has consulted on the campus project and should certainly have talked to locals much earlier about its plans. In their turn, Greenbank residents must realise that most locals desperately want to see students back in Ambleside.
In its defence, the university has said it is not planning to populate the campus with the kind of ‘stereotypical freshers’ who might create problems for the Greenbank estate residents, but more considerate students who would be studying subjects linked to the environment, such as conservation.
That is no guarantee of good behaviour, however, and locals are right to be wary until the students have a chance to prove themselves.
Meanwhile, the university must work harder to find a more appropriate access to the campus so it can restore its relationship with local residents.