Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ex-education officer launches a broadside

by Kevin Shoesmith
Swindon Advertiser, 3 December 2005

MANY think it is now a matter of when and not if bulldozers roll onto Coate.

Government planning inspector David Fenton yesterday concluded that a university and 1,800 homes could be built between Coate Water and the Great Western Hospital.

But a fierce opponent to the scheme - and retired education officer - warned last night that the university would be a "glorified college" with only a few facilities.

The Government's conclusion came in spite of years of protests and a petition, organised by the Save Coate campaign, signed by 26,000 people.

John Price, who worked in several local schools before coming chief education officer of the Atlantic island of St Helena, is chairman of the Richard Jefferies Society.

Jefferies, a 19th century author, often turned to the countryside around Coate for inspiration.

Mr Price admits the new university is looking increasingly likely but added that it would do nothing for Swindon's image..

He criticised science-focused University of Bath for failing to recognise culture.

Mr Price said: "It will not be a proper university - more of a glorified college with a few faculties."

The University of Bath still has to find financial backing before plans can be taken further.

Mr Fenton also recommended increased protection for the country park and an extension to the buffer zone, taking it to at least 200m.

The New Swindon Company - which featured in our recent Big Debate series on plans for Coate - echoed the thoughts of many.

Spokeswoman Rosemary Wells wanted to look at the report in detail before making an in-depth comment, but she said the university is crucial for the town's growth.

"We are keen that Swindon should get a university," she said. "We do not have that level of education in Swindon and it needs it. It is accepted that a university gives breadth and diversity to a town."